Count the stars, if you can. So shall be the descendants God promised to Abram. So, Abram put his faith in the LORD. He asked God for a sign, and he made a sacrifice to Him. Then, when it was dark, a smoking fire pot and flaming torch appeared and passed between the sacrifice. God illuminated the darkness not just of the world, but of Abram’s faith. This isn’t the only time that we find God illuminating through the darkness.
In the Gospel, we hear Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. There are many similarities between these two events than are immediately obvious. We all know the Transfiguration story, but sometimes we forget the context in which it occurs. Peter, just one week earlier, proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah of God. Afterwards, Jesus promised discipleship, but also the Cross. The disciples were surely looking for signs from God to strengthen their faith. This is where our Gospel reading begins today. In this account, one detail is easy to miss: as Peter spoke, God surrounded the mountain in a cloud. In the darkness and obscurity of that cloud, God’s voice rang forth as a flaming torch in the night: This is my chosen Son; listen to him. St. Ambrose writes that this “overshadowing of the divine Spirit […] does not darken, but reveals secret things to the hearts of men.”1 As with Abram before, God made a promise and proved that he could do it by bringing light into the darkness of the minds of Peter, James, and John. God revealed secret things to the hearts of Peter, James, and John. Another important detail that is easy to miss is that Moses and Elijah, the representatives of the law and prophets of the Old Covenant, are no longer present when God reveals this to Peter, James, and John. Only Jesus, the Son of God and Messiah, remained. No questions remained over who this Jesus was.
God continues to work in similar ways in us today. God sent his Son to us, and has sent his Spirit to dwell with us, because he made each one of us a promise too. God promised us citizenship in Heaven. Paul reminds us to be imitators of him, to live the moral life that Jesus taught us, so that we may take on this citizenship. With this citizenship, God promised to transform us into new creations. We must have faith that God can transform us. This is the Good News: God can transform any one of us into bright, shining examples of his love. Our God, who can turn evil into good, loves us more than anything and wants to do this for us, but we must have faith in him. We must have faith, because faith is what allows God to work in us.
At times, it is hard to have this faith. When we look around us in the world today, we are constantly confronted with a society that is convinced that evil things are good. Society tells us that contraception and sexual license is true liberation, that gobs and gobs of money will fix any problem, that abortion and euthanasia are good things, that we must permit every bad behavior because to do otherwise isn’t nice, that there are people who have less value because of where they were born or because of some medical condition, and so many other lies. It is hard to have faith in such a society. The psalmist knows our struggle, “Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. […] Your presence, O LORD, I seek. Hide not your face from me.”
The Lord has not hidden his face from us. He gave us an amazing gift that allows us to encounter him even today. When we come to Mass, we all participate by laying our prayers, joys, sufferings, and desires on the altar with our Lord. Each of us here offer ourselves to God on the altar, alongside Jesus. Finally, we share in the Eucharist. At Mass, ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. When we receive the Eucharist, we are united with God in a way otherwise impossible. Not only that, but we are united with one another and the entire Communion of Saints, living and dead.
We have the Eucharist. We have an entire church and community of saints praying for us constantly. Maybe God is not physically lighting the room, but he is always shining his light of grace and love into our hearts. As the psalmist writes, Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
March 17th, 2019
2nd Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36