2nd Sunday of Lent – 28 February 2021- Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Responsorial: Psalm 116; II: Romans 8: 31b-34; Gospel: Mark 9:2-10
The Second Sunday of Lent brings us the account of Jesus with Peter, James and John of the Mount of Transfiguration. It is an experience of infinite graces and lessons that the Holy Spirit would bring us to know in our hearts and lives. The Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac both prepare and challenge our hearts for this journey up the mountain. It powerfully illustrates the need of courage, faith and love as we follow God. And it most poignantly shows how God will provide in those moments of testing and trust. This holy Truth is affirmed by St. Paul in our second reading from the letter to the Romans, that, with God we will be provided all we have need of in this holy quest. These experiences, shared in God’s living Word would bring us to grow, this season of Lent to grow in the essence of God.
As I studied for this reflection I was drawn to this word…”essence”. Popular culture aside I would ask we consider the true meaning of this word. Essence: Real, reality, lasting, essential, utmost importance, essence as in fragrance…”. As we journey up the Mount of Transfiguration, or stand challenged with Abraham and Isaac on their mountain we can discover, for ourselves, the ways to grow in the essence of God.
To grow in the reality of God is to grow in the Glory of God. Just as God is, so is our Lord’s glory. It is infinite, eternal, beyond human ability to quantify or contain try as we might. The essence and glory of the Holy Trinity is illustrated in the image above. There is a a beautiful ruins of an old abbey. It contained and celebrated for hundreds of years the faith, the liturgies the sacrifice of the faithful as they grew in Christ. Yet the omnipotence of God allowed this holy place to change. Some would see such ruins as a place of haunted faith and past glories. Some might even see the modern church as facing the same destiny. I see the ruins as an holy seed bed of grace and the timeless glory, the essence of God. They are inspiring mile stones of faith of those who have gone before us to grow and build for God our own dwellings of His mercy and hope. But as is illustrated finite stones and places, practices and understandings change, however holy they may be. These often difficult graces of change and growth show us the ever present need to practice the Lenten gifts of the essence of God.
White roses, albeit very simple, bring us a beautiful glimpse into the beauty, the purity of holiness. Their essence is often overlooked for the more colorful, flamboyant and fragrant flowers in. the garden. So it is in our worship and liturgy our faith. We are often drawn to the intricate and colorful holy beauty of our liturgy, our worship, shrouded in sacred music, clothed in vestments of ornate fabrics rich in traditional beauty. The safe, familiar paths of our favored prayers indeed can bring us to those holy places to encounter our Lord. So it was with the three apostles that day Jesus led them up the mountain. All was beautiful, safe, familiar. Until Jesus chose to reveal His essence and glory. As they beheld Elijah and Moses they understood, in a new way the place, the power of the Law and Prophets. But they feared…they knew in their hearts this was much greater than they had ever understood. Then when the Old Testaments left they were alone with Jesus. They were alone in this extraordinary garden with their White Rose. They were alone in the Presence, the glory, the essence of God. It was then they were able to hear their Heavenly Father: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him”. It is when we allow ourselves to come close to the white rose we discover the essence, the beauty often overlooked. Other flowers may have a fragrance more powerful, seemingly more beautiful. It is a the way of white roses to have little or very subtle scent. To experience the hidden sweetness of their fragrance we need to draw very close, maybe even be pierced by the thorns. So it is with Jesus. We must allow the angels to cleanse, simplify our path. The weeds, clutter of the world often may crowd and hide our Lord beckoning to us. The sweet smell of other flowers may cover the scent of Holy One.
Many years ago I served on a board of two old rural cemeteries. One of the tasks was the spring time mowing and cleanup. It was especially in the spring that the old roses planted generations ago on the grave of a loved one would be in bloom. It was in the clearing, cleansing of the weeds and clutter those old treasure would be encountered. Our Lenten path is a journey of renewal and cleansing to discover and draw close to the hidden glories of God.
The Transfiguration Glory of God revealed on that mountain was an experience of intense and powerful revelation for the apostles. It brought them to encounter Jesus as they never had before, His Reality, the Infinite Awesome Power and Glory that is God. They grew in the Essence of the Christ. Their faith, their relationship with Jesus was changed by God’s glory. It was, as St. Paul would later write a time where they learned: “from glory to glory He changes us”. This transforming glory is found, perhaps in a place of sacrifice as with Abraham and Issac. This transforming essence is found, perhaps on a mountain top experience with God. Or, as with our Blessed Mother, it is found when the angel calls us to simply say our yes to the will of God in our life. It is when Jesus would bring us to cross a threshold of faith to encounter the eternal holy power and beauty of His love, the essence, the fragrance of His holy grace. It is where we learn as God our Father said: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.
This week of Lent let’s seek God, draw close to the hidden holy beauty that is Jesus and allow His glory to transform our faith. May the Mount of Transfiguration, the Mount of Sacrifice, found as we daily walk the path of our cross bring us closer to God and the faithful who served and followed Him before us.
Added food for thought & prayer: How did Peter, James and John know it was Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus?