Why listening might be a good Lenten practice to embrace

By: By Sharon Priester

Second Sunday of Lent/March 1

Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18; Psalm 116:10,15,16-17,18-19; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10

Just a week and a half ago we entered into the Lenten season. During this 40-day period, the church asks us to focus more on prayer and the reading of Scripture, fasting and almsgiving. We are also called “not to just abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ.” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

After reading and rereading the Scripture verses this week several times and sharing thoughts about the readings with my husband, I added the word “listening” to the prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

In the first reading, God calls Abraham, our “father in faith,” to test him. God tells him to take his beloved son, Isaac, up the mountain and sacrifice “him up as a holocaust.” (Genesis 22:2) Obediently, Abraham does what he has been told to do and takes Isaac up the mountain to slaughter him. A messenger of the Lord appears and stops him, however, saving Isaac from death. Then, the messenger goes on to say that Abraham would be blessed abundantly and would have many descendants that would bring blessing to “to all the nations of the earth.” (Genesis 22:18)

By listening, Abraham’s son was saved and Abraham was told that he would blessed again and again by God.

In the Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James and John, three of his most devoted disciples, up the mountain. Suddenly, before their eyes, Jesus is transfigured and His clothes become dazzling white while He talks with Moses and Elijah. Confused by all that was happening, the disciples heard the voice of God the Father saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

Later, as they departed from the mountain, Jesus told them not to say anything to anyone else “except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (Mark 9:9) Little did they know that they would be witnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Only then will they recall what had been said to them.

DEATH AND NEW LIFE
Paul, who once persecuted Christians, was called by Christ to be “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name.” (Acts 9:15) Having listened to the call, Paul obediently “began to proclaim Jesus . . . is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20) In the second reading, Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he reassures the people and us by reminding them that if God is for them, who can be against them? (Romans 8:33)

Furthermore, God did not spare His Son, but handed Him over for all of us. Now Jesus sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Nothing else matters.

As you pray, fast, and serve others this Lenten season, you may want to add “listen” to your Lenten practices, too. And don’t forget “obedience.” Jesus was obedient to His Father as we should be. He suffered and died for us and a new life was given to all of us.

What are you called to “die to” during this Lenten season? What new life might follow? And keep in mind that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

As Pope Francis recently reminded us via Twitter: “Having faith does not mean having no difficulties, but having the strength to face them, knowing we are not alone.”

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SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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