Second Lent: The Mystery That Transforms the
Today’s readings present us with mystery, even more, with the mystical. Abram divides the animals in two and witnesses God passing between the halves as a torch. The mystery of God has entered human history in the covenant God made with this wandering Aramean, Abram, whom he now names Abraham. St. Paul tells the Philippians that they should not be like the Pharisees who are so concerned with Jewish dietary laws that “Their God is their belly,” and so proud of their circumcision that “their glory is in a shameful part of their body.” The problem is that they are not allowing mystery, the mystical, to enter their lives. "Our citizenship is in heaven," St. Paul says. The spiritual is what matters, not the physical. We have to allow God to transform our minds by his spiritual reality. We cannot allow ourselves to be reduced to a mere external following of physical laws. The spiritual must reign. The spiritual must transform the world.
We come to Jesus at prayer on the Mountain. Even though the Transfiguration is presented in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, only Luke begins the account with the Lord at prayer. This is significant. The Lord is opening Himself to the presence of the Father. At peace, at prayer, He is transformed, transfigured, into a state that reflects the glory of God. Moses and Elijah appear. They also are radiant, reflecting the glory of God. Moses, the representative of the Books
of the Law, Elijah, representing the Books of the Prophets, come to speak to Jesus, the very Word of God. They are speaking of God's plan for his people, the conquest of the spiritual. Of course, the disciples, Peter, James and John, don't understand this. They are still looking for a physical kingdom. The spiritual is beyond them. The voice in the cloud is meant for them and us: "This is my Beloved Son, Listen to Him."
God wants to transform the world. He has established the Kingdom of the Spirit and called us as the new Chosen People. Following him does not mean just performing certain external actions, like not eating pork or being circumcised, or just coming to Church, or showing up to get married, having our children baptized, receive communion or be confirmed. Following God means entering a spiritual, mystical relationship with him, a relationship that is present through our daily duties as well as when we are together at prayer.
We have to nourish this relationship. We have to avoid the things around us that grind our faces in the mud. We have to avoid relationships with people who turn us away from the spiritual. We have to feed our spiritual life the food of union with God. The spiritual must conquer in our lives. If we become spiritual, then we can fulfill our call to evangelize the world.
This is exhibited in a story I heard recently about some African Christians who were discussing how to best to spread the Gospel. Various methods were suggested running from literature to videos to radio announcements. Finally a young woman arose. She said, "When we judge a pagan village is ready for the Lord Jesus, the first people we send in is a devout, determined Christian family. It is their lives that will inspire the villagers to think seriously about becoming Christian. They are better than a hundred books or videos or radio announcements. Then she used this expression: She said “They will be the keyhole through which others will peer to see the Lord Christ.” To spread the Church Christians must not so much promote as attract." The woman's views carried the day.
We need to be less concerned with devising ways for people to hear about the faith and more concerned living the faith in a way that attracts people to the faith. We can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The Holy Spirit is the Mystical Power of God. This Holy Mystery is a Holy Magnet for that part of creation whom God has given the capacity for the spiritual.
"This is my Beloved Son, listen to him," the Sacred Voice calls out from heaven. God's plan is that we share in the Glory of the Lord and that we share the Glory of the Lord. We have to be people of mystery. We have to be people of prayer. This is how we can listen to Him. We have to have a prayer life. We have to respond to His
message in our hearts. We have to listen. We have to grow. He is transforming the world. He is transforming us.
On the Second Sunday of Lent we consider the way we are following the Lord. Are we allowing the spiritual to become real in our lives? Are we allowing God's plan to take effect in our world? Are we living as citizens of heaven, or is our glory the mere external following of our religion?
If someone were to ask any of us, “What exactly is a Catholic?” in what terms would we form our answer? If we were to answer to question in terms of religious practices, such as “a Catholic is a person who goes to Church on Sundays, receives the sacraments, says the Rosary, etc,” we would be given far too much importance to what we do and not enough importance to the Action of God. However, if we were to answer the question, “What is a Catholic?” in terms of what God does, if we were to say, “A Catholic is someone united to God in such a way that others experience the Mystery of God working in him, then it is God and his works that are the essence of lives. No one is drawn to Catholicism because they want to do the things that Catholics do. People are drawn to Catholicism because they want to experience God as Catholics experience him.
The spiritual life, union with God, the Holy Spirit, that is the Divine Magnet we have been called to bring into the world.
Jesus at prayer, in union with the Father, enters into the mystery of his Being and the disciples call out, “It is good for us to be here.” We also are called into the mystery of our being, the depth of our humanity where physical and spiritual unite. We are called into our depth, into union with the Holy Spirit so others might say, “It is good for us to be here.”
Transform us Lord. You want the spiritual to be real in our lives. You knock on the door of our hearts. Help us to let you in. Help us to fight for the reign of the spiritual, the mystical, your presence in the world.