Jesus’ followers are expected to journey along the same path

  • February 11, 2016

Second Sunday of Lent (Year C) Feb. 21 (Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36)

Sometimes the future looks bleak and it is difficult to believe in a happy or satisfying outcome. That is the point where many lose hope, and with the departure of hope, faith and love are endangered.

Abraham had been promised a future by God in exchange for his trust in leaving his homeland and all that was familiar. In that ancient culture, the living on through one’s descendants was the only immortality available. The years and decades passed, but no son had been born to Abraham and Sarah. Disillusionment and hopelessness flitted about in the shadows. It was a time for God to give Abraham a motivational talk. Pointing to the night sky filled with stars, God assured Abraham that his descendants would be just as numerous.

Against all evidence, Abraham believed God. That trust was reckoned as righteousness; in other words, that is what made Abraham right in God’s eyes. It had nothing to do with doctrine or rules — at this stage, there weren’t any! This trust was not just an occasional or sporadic response, but a way of life. Abraham put his entire life and future on the line, counting on the truthfulness, faithfulness, grace and provident care of God. In a very dramatic sacrificial fashion, God made a covenant with Abraham, giving him a future and a land. The fulfilment of this promise lay in the distant future, and Abraham himself would not live to see all of it. This did not discourage or deter him as he continued his long journey of faith and trust with God.

Real mature faith is a willingness to continue walking in the path that we have chosen or that has been shown to us even if it is often shrouded in mist and darkness. This means continuing our efforts to make the world a better place for those who come after us, even though the task appears overwhelming and the returns meagre. Too often we want certainty and our “faith” collapses in the face of life’s adversities. We also tend to desire immediate results that will benefit us personally. In the 21st century, many of the signposts and certainties have disappeared. We are entering a time in which the type of faith shown by Abraham and Sarah, our father and mother in faith, is going to be more and more important. At times, it might be the only faith possible.

Staking our lives on God’s future usually evokes opposition and ridicule. Paul counselled his followers to ignore them — they would have to live with the consequences of their own choices and conduct. True believers — disciples — have already begun to dwell in the heavenly realms even while on Earth. They sing to God’s rhythms that only faith enables us to hear. By living as if they are already in Heaven, they in a sense are.

The shocked disciples were captivated by the dazzling light surrounding Jesus as He spoke with Moses and Elijah. The three figures were speaking of the “departure“ (exodus) of Jesus, which He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. This was the journey to freedom by means of His passion, resurrection and return to the Father, and it would become our exodus too. Peter’s rush to build three shrines for worship demonstrated his failure to understand what all of this meant. There was incredible suffering ahead before the completion of the exodus, and the followers of Jesus were expected to walk the same path. The voice of divine affirmation from the cloud ordered them to listen to the Chosen One, but that was meant as more than just a call to obedience.

By listening to the voice of Jesus during our own journey, we will hear His constant words of encouragement. He will remind us of His own suffering, as well as illuminate the meaning of our own and the hidden opportunities it contains. Not that we will immediately understand everything, for it is evident in the Gospel that at the time even the disciples understood very little. Glittering possibilities for the future should not blind us to the struggles along the way. We live in the “in-between time.” Christ has risen victorious from the dead but there is still much work to be done, and we are an integral part of that work.

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