Our pilgrimage of Lent requires moving from the familiar to attain the eternal
By Shawn Reeves
Second Sunday of Lent/March 12
Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9
The unknown is uncomfortable. We can neither anticipate its outcomes nor prepare for its challenges. It remains undefined and foreign. And so we tend to flee from it as far as we can. But seldom do we succeed in escaping it, because human growth always demands moving from what is familiar to what is new and unexplored.
Much like us as we embark upon the pilgrimage of Lent, Abram is asked to leave what is familiar, dependable, and comfortable. He is asked to go forth from the surroundings he has always known, the people who have always supported him, and the home that has always given him shelter and security.
Similarly, in this Sunday’s Gospel the apostles are asked to abandon their expectations about Jesus. Ensconced between the first and second foretellings of his crucifixion, Jesus provides James, John, and Peter with the experience of his Transfiguration. Shaken by being told their Lord must suffer and die, the glory of the Transfiguration is far more comforting and far more reliable a hope than a Christ who is to be beaten and killed. But when Peter proposes that they settle in that moment, in what is dependable and comfortable, the resounding, heavenly answer is “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” — do not limit his identity by your expectations.
Jesus is flanked by the central figure of the law (Moses) and the central figure of the prophets (Elijah). It would seem that Peter feels that all he could ask for is there, in that moment, and so “it is good that we are here.” But a voice intervenes, disrupting his plans and redirecting his expectations. In one simple testimony about His Son, the Father conveys to Peter that his satisfaction in Christ’s identity is still too shallow, his discovery of the Lord still incomplete. And Peter is stricken with fear.
MORE THAN OBLIGATION
While Peter may not have expected to witness Christ’s transfigured glory, neither did he expect the thundering voice of the Father to interrupt his celebration. Not only is the unknown uncomfortable, but often it is fearful — fear of what may come that we do not prefer, fear that our plans become dashed, fear that we are not the masters of our own destinies.
But one cannot discover anything new without first moving into the unknown. The Father made it clear that Jesus cannot remain for Peter merely the Transfigured One. No, Peter must be open to discovering Jesus as the Resurrected One, the Son of the Father who must suffer and rise.
Had Abram never left what he knew, he never would have seen the beginnings of the unfolding of what was promised to him. Never would he have become a great nation. Never would he be given a great name. And never would all the communities on earth have found blessing in him. He could have succumbed to the fear of the unknown and the discomfort of the unfamiliar. But, by grace, he accepted that pilgrimage and treaded into the unknown on the hope of a promise, on the hope of a yet unattained discovery.
Lent is a period of detachment and discovery. Abram must detach himself from the things of the world he loves so that he might attach himself more closely to the God Who is Love. Peter must detach himself even from the joys of the Transfiguration so that he may attach himself more boldly to discovering Christ more completely. He must forego the lesser to discover the greater. Lent is not merely a necessity of Catholic obligation. It’s a necessity of growth and discovery. So, rise and do not be afraid.
SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family are members of St. Malachy Parish in Rantoul.