Keeping our eyes fixed on world to come
By Father R. Michael Schaab
Second Sunday of Lent/March 17
Genesis 15:5-12,17-18; Psalm 27:1,7-8,8-9,13-14; Philippians 3:17 — 4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
The first preface for Lent states that we “await the paschal feasts with the joy of minds made pure.” The older translation said, “Each year you give us this joyful season.” It has always struck me as odd that we associate these 40 days with joy. Lent to me has meant self-sacrifice, penance, fast and abstinence — just about the opposite of joy. An in depth look at the readings for the Second Sunday of Lent will help us to appreciate the real joy of this season.
But even before we look at the readings we need to go back to the 1960s to the “General norms for the liturgical year,” promulgated by St. Pope Paul VI. Those norms state that during Lent “the liturgy prepares the catechumens (those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) for the celebration of the paschal mystery by the several stages of Christian initiation: it also prepares the faithful, who recall their baptism.” The real cause for joy in Lent is baptism. The smiles on the faces of parents who present their infants for baptism throughout the year and the happiness experienced by the catechumens who are to be baptized at the Easter Vigil are proof of the connection of Lent, paschal mystery, baptism and joy.
Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. Jesus’ “face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” That change invites us to our own transformation which in called conversion. That conversion is celebrated in baptism and renewed in us by God each Lent.
Note the parallels between his Transfiguration and our baptismal conversion. “His clothing became dazzling white” and we are clothed with a white garment at baptism. “His face changed,” and our hearts change in the conversion that is required by baptism. The voice of God first heard at Jesus’ own baptism by John in the Jordan is heard once again telling us “to listen to him.” And so began at our baptism that conversion process known as lifelong catechesis, constantly listening to him.
ALL CALLED TO CONVERSION
All of this is part of the New Covenant that God made with us in Christ and which we commemorate and celebrate at every Mass. It’s different from the old covenants, like the one made with Abram in today’s first reading, not because God is different, but because of what is promised.
God promised to give Abram the “land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” In the second reading Paul points out that in the New Covenant God promises something beyond life in this world. The promise is that “our citizenship is in heaven.” There we will experience our final transfiguration when “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.”
In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration Peter appears confused and “did not know what he was saying” when he suggests making three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah so they would have somewhere to stay here on earth. What he didn’t realize was that Jesus had come to offer him and all humanity a place to stay in heaven. Our acceptance of this offer and our first step toward heaven is baptism. Lent comes around every year to deepen our conversion so we can live in this world with our eyes fixed on the world that is to come.
In any reflection on baptism one comes to the point of confronting death. In baptism we die to sin so that we might rise to new life in Christ. That’s the transfiguration-conversion-transformation God works in us throughout our lives. It’s interesting that one of the last Scriptures that is read as mourners stand around an open grave to commit the body of their loved one to the earth from which it was made comes from today’s second reading. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The coming of our Savior is the cause of great joy.
Father R. Michael Schaab is a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria who gives retreats and days of recollection, and fills in as presider at parish Masses on weekends. He resides on a hobby farm in Putnam County.