Second Week of Lent

Becoming White as Light

Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Matthew 17:1–2

What a fascinating line above: “white as light.”  How white is something that is “white as light?”

On this the second week of Lent, we are given the hopeful image of Jesus being transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James and John.  They witness a small glimpse of His eternal glory and radiance as the Son of God and the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  They are stunned, in awe, amazed and filled with the greatest joy.  Jesus’ face shines like the sun and His clothing is so white, so pure, so radiant that they shine as the brightest and most pure light imaginable.

Why did this happen?  Why did Jesus do this and why did He permit these three Apostles to see this glorious event?  And to ponder further, why do we reflect upon this scene in the beginning of Lent?

Simply put, Lent is a time to examine our lives and to see our sins most clearly.  It’s a time we are given each year to pause from the confusion of life and to reexamine the road we are on.  Looking at our sins can be hard.  It can be depressing and can tempt us to depression, hopelessness and even despair.  But the temptation to despair must be overcome.  And it is not overcome by ignoring our sin, rather, it is overcome by turning our eyes to the power and glory of God.

The Transfiguration is an event given to these three Apostles to give them hope as they prepare to face the suffering and death of Jesus.  They are given this glimpse of glory and hope as they prepare to see Jesus embrace their sins and endure the consequences.

If we face sin without hope, we are doomed.  But if we face sin (our sin) with a remembrance of Who Jesus is and what He has done for us, then facing our sin will lead us not into despair but into victory and glory.

As the Apostles looked on and saw Jesus transfigured, they heard a voice from Heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt. 17:5b).  The Father spoke this of Jesus, but He also desires to speak it of each one of us.  We need to see in the Transfiguration the end and goal of our lives.  We need to know, with the deepest conviction, that the Father desires to transform us into the whitest light, lifting all sin, and bestowing upon us the great dignity of being a true son or daughter of Him.

Reflect, today, upon your sin.  But do so as you also reflect upon the transfigured and glorious nature of our divine Lord.  He came to bestow this gift of holiness on each one of us.  This is our calling.  This is our dignity.  This is who we must become, and the only way to do so is to allow God to cleanse us of every sin in our lives and to draw us into His glorious life of grace.

My transfigured Lord, You shone in radiance before the eyes of Your Apostles so that they could testify to the beauty of the life to which we are all called.  During this Lent, help me to face my sin with courage and confidence in You and in Your power to not only forgive but to also transform.  My I die to sin more deeply than ever before so as to share more fully in the glory of Your divine life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Transfigured in Glory

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Mark 9:2–3

The many teachings of Jesus were hard for many to accept. His command to love your enemies, to take up your cross and follow Him, to lay down your life for another, and His call to perfection were demanding, to say the least. So as a help for all of us to embrace the challenges of the Gospel, Jesus chose Peter, James and John to receive a small vision of Who He truly is. He showed them a glimpse of His greatness and glory. And that image most certainly stayed with them and helped them every time they were tempted to get discouraged or despair over the holy demands our Lord placed upon them.

Recall that prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus taught His disciples that He would have to suffer and die and that they must also follow in His footsteps. So Jesus revealed to them a taste of His unimaginable glory. The glory and splendor of God is truly unimaginable. There is no way to comprehend His beauty, magnificence and splendor. Even in Heaven when we see Jesus face to face, we will eternally enter deeper and deeper into the incomprehensible mystery of God’s glory.

Though we are not privileged to witness the image of His glory as these three Apostles were, their experience of this glory is given to us to ponder so that we will also receive the benefit of their experience. Since the glory and splendor of Christ is not just physical but also essentially a spiritual reality, He can give us a glimpse of His glory also. At times in life, Jesus will give us His consolation and instill within us a clear sense of Who He is. He will reveal to us through prayer a sense of Who He is, especially when we make the radical choice to follow Him without reserve. And though this may not be a daily experience, if you have ever received this gift by faith, then remind yourself of it when things get difficult in life.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus as He is now fully radiating His glory in Heaven. Recall that image whenever you find yourself tempted in life toward despair or doubt, or when you sense that Jesus simply wants too much of you. Remind yourself of Who Jesus truly is. Try to imagine what these Apostles saw and experienced. Allow their experience to become yours also, so that you will be able to daily make the choice to follow our Lord wherever He leads.

My transfigured Lord, You are truly glorious in a way that is beyond my comprehension. Your glory and splendor are beyond what my imagination can ever comprehend. Help me to always keep the eyes of my heart upon You and to allow the image of Your Transfiguration to strengthen me when I’m tempted to despair. I love You, my Lord, and place all my hope in You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Joy at the Transfiguration

Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Luke 9:33

Peter was excited, perhaps beyond any excitement he had experienced before.  In fact, to say he was excited is most certainly an understatement.  It may be more appropriate to say that he was overwhelmed!  Why was this the case? Because he had just been given a very small glimpse of the glory and splendor of God!

This is the Transfiguration.  Jesus took Peter, James and John and they went up a high mountain together.  These three Apostles had no idea what was coming.  Most likely while on the way they were complaining interiorly, wondering why they had to go up the mountain.  But the mountain is a symbol of our upward journey to Heaven.  It takes focus and drive, commitment and resolve to go there, and it’s an elevated place, a place away from the ordinary occurrences of life.  

So they were on this difficult climb up the mountain and suddenly they stopped in shock and awe.  They saw before their eyes Jesus changed in a glorious way,  His clothing being whiter than any white they had ever seen.  And Moses and Elijah, the great Law-giver and the great Prophet, were there before them conversing with Jesus.  

And what was going on in Peter’s head?  What was he experiencing?  He was experiencing a small glimpse of the glory and splendor of God.  Jesus, who up until this moment had kept His divinity veiled, lifted the veil ever so slightly.  And with the lifting of that veil, His divinity shone through brighter than anything this world could ever contain.  And Peter, James and John did not know what to think.  But Peter cried out that he wanted to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah!  For within that momentary experience, he experienced the desire to remain there forever.  

So why did Jesus give these Apostles this very brief experience of His glory?  Because they would need that taste of His goodness for the road ahead.  They would need to forever remember what their final destiny was.  They would need to hold this experience close as they endured the many crosses and sufferings ahead.  And they would use this experience to remind themselves that whatever they had to endure on the journey up the mountain of life is worth it.  Because on the summit is a glory so great that no hardship they would have to endure would ever prove to be too big.

God wants to give that message to us through them.  He wants us to ponder this experience they had and He wants us to try to enter into it so that we too can willingly press on during the journey.

Reflect, today, at the beginning of Lent, on the glory of God that makes the crosses we endure all worth it.  Take advantage of this experience of Peter, James and John and try to make their experience your own.  Be consoled by God’s glory and never forget that this is the ultimate promise He gives to all who press on.

My transfigured Lord, may I be consoled by Your glory and splendor.  May I believe in this glory and keep it ever in my mind as I press on through the hardships and challenges I face.  You travel the road ahead of me and You will lead me on my journey if I only trust in You.  Jesus, I do trust in You!

Judging the Actions, Not the Heart

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.”  Luke 6:37

Have you ever met someone for the first time and without even talking to this person suddenly came to the conclusion of what you think of them?  Perhaps it was that they seemed a bit standoffish, or had a certain lack of expression, or seemed distracted.  If we are honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that it’s very easy to come to an immediate judgment of others.  It’s easy to immediately think that because they seem distant or standoffish, or lack that expression of warmth, or are distracted, that they must have a problem.

What’s hard to do is to completely suspend our judgment of others.  It’s hard to immediately give them the benefit of the doubt and to presume only the best.  

On the flip side, we may encounter people who are very good actors.  They are smooth and courteous; they look us in the eye and smile, shake our hand and treat us in a very gracious way.  You may walk away thinking, “Wow, that person really has it all together!”

The problem with both of these approaches is that it’s really not our place to form a judgment for good or for ill in the first place.  Perhaps the one who makes a good impression is simply a good “politician” and knows how to turn on the charm.  But charm can be deceptive. 

The key here, from Jesus’ statement, is that we must strive to be non-judgmental in every way.  It’s simply not our place.  God is the judge of the good and the bad.  Sure we should look at good actions and be grateful when we see them and even offer affirmation for the goodness we see.  And, sure, we should notice poor behavior, offer correction as needed, and do it with love.  But judging the actions is much different than judging the person.  We ought not judge the person, nor do we want to be judged or condemned by others.  We do not want others to presume they know our hearts and motives.    

Perhaps one important lesson we can take from this statement of Jesus is that the world needs more people who are non-judgmental and non-condemning.  We need more people who know how to be true friends and love unconditionally.  And God wants you to be one of those persons.  

Reflect, today, upon how often you do judge others and reflect upon how good you are at offering the kind of friendship others around you need.  In the end, if you offer this sort of friendship you will most likely be blessed with others who offer this sort of friendship right back!  And with that you will both be blessed!

Lord, give me a non-judgmental heart.  Help me to love each person I encounter with a holy love and acceptance.  Help me to have the charity I need to correct their wrongdoing with kindness and firmness, but to also see beyond the surface and see the person You created.  In turn, give me the true love and friendship of others so that I may trust and enjoy the love You wish me to have.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Exaltation of the Humble of Heart

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:12

Humility seems like such a contradiction.  We are easily tempted to think that the way to greatness involves letting everyone know all that we do well.  There is a constant temptation for most people to put forward their best face and to hope others will see that and admire it.  We want to be noticed and praised.  And we often try to make that happen by the little things we do and say.  And often we tend to exaggerate who we are.

On the flip side, if someone criticizes us and thinks ill of us it has the potential of being devastating.  If we hear that someone said something negative about us we may go home and be depressed or angry about it the rest of the day, or even the rest of the week!  Why?  Because our pride is wounded and that wound can hurt.  It can hurt unless we have discovered the incredible gift of humility.

Humility is a virtue that enables us to be real.  It enables us to cut through any false persona we may have and simply be who we are.  It enables us to be comfortable with our good qualities as well as our failures.  Humility is nothing other than being honest and true about our lives and being comfortable with that person.

Jesus gives us a wonderful lesson in the Gospel passage above that is very hard to live but is absolutely key to living a happy life.  He wants us to be exalted!  He wants us to be noticed by others.  He wants our light of goodness to shine for all to see and for that light to make a difference.  But He wants it done in truth, not by presenting a false persona.  He wants the real “me” to shine forth.  And that is humility.

Humility is sincerity and genuineness.  And when people see this quality in us they are impressed.  Not so much in a worldly way but in an authentic human way.  They will not look at us and be envious, rather, they will look at us and see the true qualities we have and enjoy them, admire them and want to imitate them.  Humility enables the real you to shine through.  And, believe it or not, the real you is someone who others want to meet and get to know.

Reflect, today, on how genuine you are.  Make this time of Lent a time when the foolishness of pride is shattered.  Let God strip away every false image of yourself so that the true you can shine forth.  Humble yourself in this way and God will take you and exalt you in His way so that your heart can be seen and loved by those around you.

Lord of perfect humility, make me humble.  Help me to be sincere and honest about who I am.  And in that honesty, help me to let Your Heart, living in mine, shine through for others to see.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Life of Sacrifice

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  Matthew 20:22–23

It’s easy to have good intentions, but is that enough?  The Gospel passage above was spoken by Jesus to the brothers James and John after their loving mother came to Jesus and asked Him to promise her that her two sons would sit on His right and left when He took up His kingly throne.  Perhaps it was a bit bold of her to ask that of Jesus, but it was clearly a mother’s love that was behind her request.

However, it’s important to note that she didn’t actually realize what she was asking.  And if she did realize what she was asking, she may not have asked Jesus for this “favor” at all.  Jesus was going up to Jerusalem where He would take up His throne of the Cross and be crucified.  And it was in this context that Jesus is asked if James and John could join Him on His throne.  This is why Jesus asks these two Apostles, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”  To which they respond, “We can.”  And Jesus confirms this by telling them, “My chalice you will indeed drink.”

They were invited by Jesus to follow in His footsteps and to courageously give their lives in a sacrificial way for the love of others.  They were to abandon all fear and were to be ready and willing to say “Yes” to their own crosses as they sought to serve Christ and His mission.

Following Jesus is not something we ought to do half way.  If we want to be a true follower of Christ then we, too, need to drink the chalice of His Precious Blood deep into our souls and to be nourished by that gift so that we are ready and willing to give of ourselves to the point of a total sacrifice.  We need to be ready and willing to hold nothing back, even if that means the greatest of sacrifice.

True, very few people will be called to be literal martyrs, but we are ALL called to be martyrs in spirit.  This means that we must be so completely given over to Christ and His will that we have died to ourselves.  

Reflect, today, upon Jesus asking you this question, “Can you drink of the chalice that I am going to drink?”  Can you willingly give everything, holding nothing back?  Can your love of God and others be so complete and total that you are a martyr in the truest sense of the word?  Resolve to say “Yes,” drink the chalice of His Precious Blood and daily offer your life in total sacrifice.  It’s worth it and you can do it!

My sacrificial Lord, may my love for You and others be so complete that I hold nothing back.  May I give my mind only to Your Truth and my will to Your Way.  And may the gift of Your Precious Blood be my strength on this journey so that I may imitate Your perfect and sacrificial love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

True Riches

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  Luke 16:22–23

If you had to choose, what would you prefer?  To be rich and dine sumptuously every day, clothed in purple garments, having everything you could ever want in this world?  Or to be a poor beggar, covered with sores, living in a doorway, feeling the pains of hunger?  It’s an easy question to answer on the surface.  The rich and comfortable life is more attractive at first thought.  But the question should not be considered only on the surface, we must look deeper and consider the full contrast of these two people and the effects that their inner lives have on their eternal souls. 

As for the poor man, when he died “he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”  As for the rich man, the Scripture states that he “died and was buried” and went to the “netherworld, where he was in torment.” Now who would you prefer to be like?

Though it may be desirable to be rich in this life AND the next, that’s not the point of Jesus’ story.  The point of His story is simple in that while on this Earth we must repent, turn from sin, listen to the words of Scripture, believe and keep our eyes on our true goal of the riches of Heaven.

As for whether you are rich or poor in this life, it really shouldn’t matter.  Though that’s a hard conviction to arrive at, interiorly, it must be our goal.  Heaven, and the riches that await, must be our focus.  And we prepare for Heaven by hearing the Word of God and responding with the utmost generosity. 

The rich man could have responded in this life by seeing the dignity and value of the poor man lying in his doorway, and reaching out in love and mercy.  But he didn’t.  He was too focused on himself.

Reflect, today, upon the stark contrast between these two men, and especially the eternity that awaited each of them.  If you see any of the sinful tendencies of this rich man in your own life, then repent of these sins and repent today.  See the dignity and value in each person you encounter.  And if you tend to be more focused upon your own self, consumed with selfish pleasure and excess, seek to embrace true poverty of spirit, striving to be attached only to God and the abundant blessings that come with a full embrace of all that He has revealed to us.

Lord of true riches, please free me from my selfishness.  Help me, instead, to remain focused upon the dignity of all people and to pour myself out in their service.  May I discover in the poor, the broken and the humble, an image of You.  And as I discover Your presence in their lives, may I love You, in them, seeking to be an instrument of Your mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Rejection Transformed

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  Matthew 21:42

Of all the rejections that have been experienced throughout the ages, there is one that stands out above the rest.  It’s the rejection of the Son of God.  Jesus had nothing other than pure and perfect love in His Heart.  He wanted the absolute best for everyone He encountered.  And He was willing to offer the gift of His life to whoever would accept it.  Though many have accepted it, many have also rejected it.  

It’s important to understand that the rejection Jesus experienced left deep pain and suffering.  Certainly the actual Crucifixion was extraordinarily painful.  But the wound He experienced in His Heart from the rejection of so many was His greatest pain and caused the greatest of suffering.

Suffering in this sense was an act of love, not an act of weakness.  Jesus didn’t suffer interiorly because of pride or a poor self image.  Rather, His Heart hurt because He loved so deeply.  And when that love was rejected, it filled Him with the holy sorrow spoken of in the Beatitudes (“Blessed are they who mourn…” Matthew 5:4).  This sort of sorrow was not a form of despair; rather, it was a deep experience of the loss of the love of another.  It was holy, and a result of His burning love for all.

When we experience rejection it is hard to sort out the pain we feel.  It’s very hard to let the hurt and anger we feel turn into a “holy sorrow” which has the effect of motivating us toward a deeper love of those whom we mourn over.  This is difficult to do but is what our Lord did.  The result of Jesus doing this was the salvation of the world.  Imagine if Jesus would have simply given up.  What if, at the time of His arrest, Jesus would have called on the myriads of angels to come to His rescue.  What if He would have done this thinking, “These people are not worth it!”  The result would have been that we would have never received the eternal gift of salvation by His death and Resurrection.  Suffering would not have been transformed into love.

Reflect, today, upon the deep truth that rejection is potentially one of the greatest gifts we have to fight against evil.  It’s “potentially” one of the greatest gifts because it all depends on how we ultimately respond.  Jesus responded with perfect love when he cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  This act of perfect love in the midst of His ultimate rejection enabled Him to become the “Cornerstone” of the Church and, therefore, the Cornerstone of new life!  We are called to imitate this love and to share in His ability to not only forgive, but to also offer the holy love of mercy.  When we do, we also will become a cornerstone of love and grace for those who need it the most.

Lord of mercy, help me to be that cornerstone.  Help me to not only forgive every time I’m hurt, but let me also offer love and mercy in return.  You are the divine and perfect example of this love.  May I share in this same love, crying out with You, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Jesus, I trust in You.

A Father’s Unwavering Love

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

“Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” Then the celebration began.  Luke 15:22–24

In this familiar story of the Prodigal Son, we see courage in the son by choosing to return to his father.  And this is significant even though the son returned primarily out of desperate need.  Yes, he humbly admits his wrongs and asks his father to forgive and to treat him like one of his hired hands.  But he did return!  The question to answer is “Why?”

It’s fair to say that the son returned to the father, first and foremost, because he knew in his heart the goodness of his father.  The father was a good father.  He had shown his love and care for his son throughout his life.  And even though the son rejected the father, it doesn’t change the fact that the son always knew he was loved by him.  Perhaps he didn’t even realize how much he actually realized this.  But it was this certain realization in his heart that gave him the courage to return to his father with hope in the father’s abiding love.

This reveals that authentic love always works.  It is always effective.  Even if someone rejects the holy love we offer, it always has an impact upon them.  True unconditional love is hard to ignore and it’s hard to push away.  The son realized this lesson and so must we.  

Spend time prayerfully pondering the father’s heart.  We should ponder the hurt he must have felt but also look at the constant hope he must have had as he anticipated his son’s return.  We should ponder the overflowing joy in his heart as he saw his son returning from a distance.  He ran to him, ordered he be well taken care of, and had a party.  These things are all signs of a love that cannot be contained.

This is the love the Father in Heaven has for each of us.  He is not an angry or harsh God.  He is a God who longs to take us back and reconcile with us.  He wishes to rejoice the moment we turn to Him in our need.  Even if we are uncertain, He is certain about His love, He is always waiting for us, and deep down we all know that.

Reflect, today upon the importance of reconciling with the Father in Heaven.  Lent is an ideal time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  That Sacrament is this story.  It’s the story of us going to the Father with our sin and Him lavishing us with His mercy.  It may be frightening and intimidating to go to Confession, but if we enter into that Sacrament with honesty and sincerity, we are in for a wonderful surprise.  God will run to us, lift our burdens and put them behind us.  Don’t let this Lent go by without participating in this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Compassionate Father, I do sin.  I have turned away from You and acted on my own.  Now is the time to return to You with an open and honest heart.  Give me the courage I need to embrace that love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Thank You for Your unwavering and perfect love.  Father in Heaven, Holy Spirit, and Jesus my Lord, I trust in You.

Third Week of Lent

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