Fr. Bryan Howard
2nd Sunday of Lent – Year A – 8 March 2020
As Jesus drew near to Jerusalem He knew that He was going to His crucifixion, and He knew that the disciples would have their faith tested. They would wonder if He was really the Messiah. They would scatter for fear of being crucified like He was. So, He took the leaders of the apostles, Peter, James, and John, and went up Mt. Tabor and was transfigured before them, revealing to them His glory. The Church gives us this reading right at the beginning of Lent, but after we’ve had time to start struggling with our Lenten fasting, to remind us why we’re doing it. We don’t fast for the sake of making ourselves suffer or to show how holy we are; we fast, pray, and give alms during Lent to learn how to rely on God’s grace, so that we might be transfigured, too, and share in the glory of God.
We’ve been chosen by God and called. Called to what? To become like Christ. To be transformed or transfigured into the image of Jesus Christ. In our second reading we heard what St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “God saved us and called us to a holy life…” We’re called to holiness, which simply means to be Godlike. We can know what it means to be like God by looking at Jesus. After all, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, can be used (and misused) to support just about any idea, theory, or lifestyle, so how can we know what God really wants? We look to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.
We are called “not according to our works…” We weren’t called because we were better, stronger, smarter, or more accomplished than anyone else. As they say, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” You can’t earn a parents love; they love you because you’re there child, and if they don’t the problem is with them, not you. In the same way, God love us because we’re his children, not because we’re good, but because He loves us He wants to call us to something better.
We are called “according to His own design and the grace bestowed on us before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus.” That is, in Jesus, God’s design, or plan, is made manifest and revealed to us. God’s very nature is love. It’s who He is, and we can only become like God by loving as God loves. Since God is infinite He can give of Himself without costing Himself anything. He created the universe, the laws of the universe, everything living thing, and all of us, and it didn’t cost Him anything. We, on the other hand, are very much limited. In this world there is no love without suffering, because love always wants to give to the one that we love, and that always costs us something. God became flesh in Jesus Christ to show us the infinite love of God in a limited human body. That’s why the ultimate act of God’s love for us is the Cross, on which the God-man, Jesus, gave His life for us.
God’s plan is illustrated in our first reading, which is the calling of Abraham. Called just Abram at the time, Jesus choose this 75 year old man, wealthy but without children of his own, and asked him to travel to a distant land that he didn’t know anything about. In return, he made Abraham three promises, but Abram wouldn’t receive any of them in his life. They would all be given to his descendants. First, God promised to make of Abram “a great nation.” This promise was fulfilled about 500 years later at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus, when they were formed into a nation when God gave the law to Moses. Second, God promised to make Abram’s name great, which is later explained by saying that kings will come from Abraham’s line, and this is fulfilled about 800 years later when Abraham’s descendant David becomes King of Israel. Finally, God promises, “All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” The universal blessing, or blessing to all the nations is fulfilled 1,800 years later in Jesus Christ, who told His disciples, “Go forth, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that I have taught you.”
Abraham wasn’t called for himself, but for others. God chose Abraham and gave his descendants the law and the prophets, so that He could bless all the rest of the nations through them, and through one descendant of Abraham in particular, Jesus Christ. We’ve been called, but not for ourselves. We’ve been called to bring the blessings of God to others by being like Christ. Who have you been called for? Have you been called for you spouse and children, your neighbor, the poor and homeless, the sick and injured, or the ones who don’t know God? The blessings we have are not for us; they’re meant to be used for the glory of God. Each morning ask God to not let any opportunities to serve Him pass you by, and every evening thank God for those opportunities and ask Him to help you do just a little bit better tomorrow.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.