God's Word on Sunday: Follow Jesus and we will never lose our way

  • March 3, 2023

Second Sunday of Lent. (Year A) March 5 (Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9)

Since the beginning of time, many people have been forced to flee and abandon their homes and land for a new life elsewhere. Sometimes the hope is very basic: survival. Marauding armies, plagues, social chaos and famine can make survival difficult or impossible. At other times, hopes for a better life for children and descendants can impel people outward. Our own times have witnessed the mass migrations of peoples and the arrival of many immigrants and refugees from all over the globe. 

In Abraham’s case, there does not appear to have been any difficulties or threats to set him on the road. He heard a voice from God, and it was not a suggestion but a command. Leave your country and kin and do not look back. Strike out into the unknown — you will not know the destination, but you will go where I show you. In return for this supreme act of trust, God promised Abraham many descendants — he would be the father of a great nation. This promise kept Abraham going for many years despite many challenges, lapses and doubts. It governed his entire life. The promise would not be fulfilled until he and Sarah were far advanced in years — it happened in God’s way and God’s time. His life of trust is the model and paradigm for our relationship with God for he is our father in faith. 

Many have heard this insistent call from God to strike out into the unknown for a new life: St. Augustine, St. Ignatius, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day to name just a few. The voice is gentle but firm and will give no peace until it is obeyed. The voice in our own lives might not be as dramatic in its demands but it is there just the same. We could be urged to leave behind old ideas. There might be a nudge to let go of parts of our lives, the past or the grand plans that we may have. It could urge us to walk away from a promising business career and take up work that is more people oriented. It will be different for every person but the tap on the shoulder could come at any time.

Paul invites his followers to join him in suffering for the Gospel. As in the case of Abraham, trust in God was the precondition for they would not be relying on their own powers or achievements. Grace would be the guiding principle, and this grace was given since before the beginning of time. It was now revealed to humanity as God’s plan of salvation unfolded. The lesson is that this is God’s show, not ours — we all have our roles, but we must be willing to turn and face a completely new direction.

If our eyes were opened for only a moment to the unseen world around us, we would be amazed. What we perceive with our physical senses is just a sliver of reality. Peter, James and John had the shock of their lives when they went up on the mountain one night. Jesus radiated a brilliant white light — almost too intense to look at — and He was talking to none other than Elijah and Moses. The apostles were of course completely clueless — this was not part of their religious experience or understanding. As with most people, they interpreted this experience through their own categories. 

Peter immediately wanted to immortalize the experience by building three shrines. This is a common religious reaction to an encounter with the divine. After the awesome sounding voice from the cloud, they all fell down in terror. The voice affirmed the status of Jesus as the beloved son and commanded that all listen to Him. Listen, understand and take to heart, rather than building shrines or cringing in fear. 

Inner illumination is something offered to all believers in Jesus willing to seek divine guidance. Many of the lights and signposts in our world are gone and it can seem to be a frightening and confusing place. Some have lost their way. But the words spoken from the cloud at the Transfiguration are also spoken to us: This is my son, the beloved, with Him I am well pleased, listen to Him! We are not as alone or rudderless as we think.