How are we being transformed this Lent?
Living the Word l Sister Sandra Brunenn, OSB
Second Sunday of Lent l March 5
Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9
On our property at St. Mary Monastery, in an open space that can be easily viewed from our health care area windows, we have planted a witchhazel bush. The witchhazel has an unusual characteristic: it blooms in the winter; in fact right now, in mid-February, our bush is in full bloom. The “flowers” are orange-colored, tiny, and almost fluttery in appearance. They seem to hold a promise that spring will come, a beautiful symbol of hope and life in the drabness of winter.
I believe that the encouragement the witchhazel provides for me is akin to how the experience of this Sunday’s Gospel story affects Jesus and his disciples. The Gospel takes place right after Jesus predicts his Passion for the first time. He tells his followers that to be his disciple they must be willing to take up the cross and follow him. Certainly a sobering message! They surely could use some encouragement!
Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain by themselves and is transfigured before them. It is as if the radiance and power of God’s presence within him shines forth both for Jesus and for his companions. A voice from a cloud overshadowing them proclaims the words that Jesus first heard at his baptism: “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” And then, the voice adds: “Listen to him.” Peter, James, and John are filled with fear; Jesus reaches out, touches them, and reassures them with the words “Do not be afraid.”
BEARING BURDENS, BEARING HOPE
The Church gives us this Gospel of the Transfiguration every year on the second Sunday of Lent. We are reminded of the glory awaiting Jesus — and of our call to listen to him. (Notice at Mass this weekend how the opening prayer reinforces this focus.)
As we listen to him we, too, discover that he is with us, taking away fear, and empowering us to bear our burdens with patience and hope.
May our Lenten encounter with the Word of God, our listening to him, enable us to bear our crosses united with Jesus and the promise of resurrection. We, akin to the tiny flowers on the witchhazel bush, are called to be reflections of God’s glory and instruments of God’s presence and love perhaps especially in periods of darkness.
Are you looking for encouragement in your efforts to listen to Jesus in prayer? Check out the app produced by the British Jesuits, available at pray-as-you-go.org. Each meditation, about 10 minutes long, uses the Scripture reading of the day and contemplative music to aid reflection.
During this time of Lent let us all renew our commitment to “listen to him.”
SISTER SANDRA BRUNENN, OSB, is director of initial formation for the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She has also served as a teacher, spiritual director, and pastoral minister, and was prioress of her Benedictine community from 2012 to 2020.