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.
Mercy Goes Both Ways
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36–37
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his guide for a thirty-day retreat, has the retreatant spend the first week of the retreat focusing upon sin, judgment, death and hell. At first, this can seem very uninspiring. But the wisdom of this approach is that after a week of these meditations, retreatants come to a deep realization of just how much they need the mercy and forgiveness of God. They see their need more clearly, and a deep humility is fostered within their soul as they see their guilt and turn to God for His mercy.
But mercy goes both ways. It is part of the very essence of mercy that it can only be received if it is also given. In the Gospel passage above, Jesus gives us a very clear command about judgment, condemnation, mercy and forgiveness. Essentially, if we want mercy and forgiveness, then we must offer mercy and forgiveness. If we are judgmental and condemning, then we will also be judged and condemned. These words are very clear.
Perhaps one of the reasons that many people struggle with being judgmental and condemning of others is because they lack a true awareness of their own sin and their own need for forgiveness. We live in a world that often rationalizes sin and downplays the seriousness of it. That’s why the teaching of Saint Ignatius is so important for us today. We need to rekindle a sense of the seriousness of our sin. This is not done simply to create guilt and shame. It’s done to foster a desire for mercy and forgiveness.
If you can grow in a deeper awareness of your own sin before God, one of the effects will be that it is then easier to be less judgmental and condemning of others. A person who sees his sin is more apt to be merciful to other sinners. But a person who struggles with self-righteousness will most certainly also struggle with being judgmental and condemning.
Reflect, today, upon your own sin. Spend time trying to understand how ugly sin is and try to grow in a healthy disdain for it. As you do, and as you beg our Lord for His mercy, pray also that you will be able to offer that same mercy you receive from God to others. As mercy flows from Heaven to your own soul, it must then also be shared. Share the mercy of God with those all around you and you will discover the true value and power of this Gospel teaching of our Lord.
My most merciful Jesus, I thank You for Your infinite mercy. Help me to see clearly my sin so that I, in turn, may see my need for Your mercy. As I do, dear Lord, I pray that my heart will be open to that mercy so that I can both receive it and share it with others. Make me a true instrument of Your divine grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11–12
Do you want to be truly great? Do you want your life to truly make a difference in the lives of others? Deep down this desire for greatness is placed within us by our Lord, and it will never go away. Even those who live eternally in hell will hold on to this innate desire which for them will be the cause of eternal pain, since that desire will never be fulfilled. And sometimes it’s useful to ponder that reality as a motivation to make sure that this is not the fate we encounter.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us one of the keys to greatness. “The greatest among you must be your servant.” Being a servant means that you put others before yourself. You elevate their needs rather than trying to get them to be attentive to your needs. And this is difficult to do.
It’s very easy in life to think of ourselves first. But the key is that we do put ourselves “first,” in a sense, when we practically put others before us. This is because the choice to put others first is not only good for them, it’s also exactly what is best for us. We were made for love. We were made to serve others. We were made for the purpose of giving of ourselves to others without counting the cost. But when we do this, we do not lose ourselves. On the contrary, it is in the act of giving of ourselves and seeing the other first that we actually discover who we are and become what we were created to be. We become love itself. And a person who loves is a person who is great…and a person who is great is a person whom God exalts.
Reflect, today, upon the great mystery and calling of humility. If you find it difficult to put others first and to act as their servant, do it anyway. Make the choice to humble yourself before everyone else. Elevate their concerns. Be attentive to their needs. Listen to what they say. Show them compassion and be ready and willing to do so to the fullest extent. If you do, that desire for greatness that lives deep within your heart will be fulfilled.
My humble Lord, thank You for the witness of Your humility. You chose to put all people first, even to the point of allowing Yourself to experience the suffering and death which was a consequence for our sins. Give me a heart that is humble, dear Lord, so that You can use me to share Your perfect love with others. Jesus, I trust in You.
Facing the Cross with Courage and Love
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17–19
What a conversation that must have been! As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem with the Twelve just prior to the first Holy Week, Jesus spoke openly and clearly about what would be waiting for Him in Jerusalem. Imagine what the disciples would have thought. In many ways, it would have been too much for them to comprehend at the time. In many ways, the disciples probably preferred not to hear what Jesus had to say. But Jesus knew they needed to hear this difficult truth, especially as the moment of the Crucifixion drew near.
Oftentimes the full message of the Gospel is difficult for us to accept. This is because the full message of the Gospel will always centrally point us to the sacrifice of the Cross. Sacrificial love and the full embrace of the Cross needs to be seen, understood, loved, fully embraced and confidently proclaimed. But how is this done? Let’s start with our Lord Himself.
Jesus was not afraid of the truth. He knew that His suffering and death was imminent, and He was ready and willing to accept this truth without hesitation. He didn’t see His Cross in a negative light. He did not look at it as a tragedy to be avoided. He didn’t allow fear to deter Him. Instead, Jesus looked at His imminent sufferings in the light of truth. He saw His suffering and death as a glorious act of love that He was soon to offer, and, therefore, He was not afraid to not only embrace these sufferings but also to speak of them with confidence and courage.
In our own lives, we are given the invitation to imitate Jesus’ courage and love every time we must face something difficult in life. When this happens, some of the most common temptations are to be angry about the difficulty, or to look for ways to avoid it, or to blame others, or to give into despair and the like. There are numerous coping mechanisms that kick in by which we tend to try and avoid the crosses that await us.
But what if we followed the example of our Lord instead? What if we faced any and every pending cross with love, courage and a willing embrace? What if instead of looking for a way out, we looked for a way in, so to speak? That is, we looked for a way to embrace our suffering in a sacrificial way, without hesitancy, in imitation of Jesus’ embrace of His cross. Every cross in life has the potential of becoming an instrument of much grace in our own lives and in the lives of others. Therefore, from the perspective of grace and eternity, crosses must be embraced, not avoided or cursed.
Reflect, today, upon any difficulty you are facing. Do you see it in the same way that Jesus sees it? Can you see every cross you are given as an opportunity for sacrificial love? Are you able to embrace it with hope and confidence, knowing that God can bring good out of it? Seek to imitate our Lord by joyfully embracing the difficulties you face and those crosses will ultimately share in the Resurrection with our Lord.
My suffering Lord, You freely embraced the injustice of the Cross with love and courage. You saw beyond the apparent scandal and suffering and transformed the evil done to You into the greatest act of love ever known. Give me the grace to imitate Your perfect love and to do so with the strength and confidence that You had. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Powerful Contrast
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” Luke 16:19–21
One of the reasons this story is so powerful is because of the clear descriptive contrast between the rich man and Lazarus. The contrast is not only seen in the passage above, it is also seen in the final outcome of each of their lives.
In the first contrast, the rich man’s life seems much more desirable, at least on the surface. He is rich, has a home to live in, dresses in fine clothing and eats sumptuously every day. By contrast, Lazarus is poor, has no home, has no food, is covered with sores and even endures the humiliation of dogs licking his wounds. Which of these persons would you prefer to be?
Before you answer that question, consider the second contrast. When they both die, they experience very different eternal fates. When the poor man died, he was “carried away by angels.” And when the rich man died, he went to the netherworld, where there was ongoing torment. So again, which of these persons would you prefer to be?
One of the most seductive and deceptive realities in life is the lure of riches, luxury and the fine things in life. Though the material world is not bad in and of itself, there is great temptation that goes along with it. In fact, it is clear from this story and from the many other teachings of Jesus on this topic that the lure of riches and its effect on the soul cannot be ignored. Those who are rich in the things of this world are often tempted to live for themselves rather than living for others. When one has all the comforts this world has to offer, it’s easy to simply enjoy those comforts without concern for others. And that is clearly the unspoken contrast between these two men.
Though poor, it is clear that Lazarus is rich in the things that matter in life. This is evidenced by His eternal reward. It is clear that in his material poverty, he was rich in charity. The man who was rich in the things of this world was clearly poor in charity and, thus, upon losing his physical life, he had nothing to take with him. No eternal merit. No charity. Nothing.
Reflect, today, upon that which you desire in life. Too often, the deception of material wealth and worldly possessions dominate our desires. In fact, even those who have little can easily become consumed with these unhealthy desires. Seek, instead, to desire only that which is eternal. Desire love of God and love of neighbor. Make this your only goal in life and you, too, will be carried away by angels when your life is completed.
My Lord of true riches, You chose to be poor in this world as a sign to us that true riches come not with material wealth but with love. Help me to love You, my God, with all my being and to love others as You love them. May I be wise enough to make spiritual riches my single goal in life so that these riches will be enjoyed for all eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.
Building the Kingdom
Friday of the Second Week of Lent
“Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Matthew 21:42
Are you among those from whom the Kingdom of God will be taken away? Or among those to whom it will be given so as to produce good fruit? This is an important question to sincerely answer.
The first grouping of people, those who will have the Kingdom of God taken away from them, are represented in this parable by the tenants of the vineyard. It is clear that one of their greatest sins is greed. They are selfish. They see the vineyard as a place through which they can enrich themselves and care little about the good of others. Sadly, this mind frame is easy to adopt in our own lives. It’s easy to see life as a series of opportunities for us to “get ahead.” It’s easy to approach life in a way that we are constantly looking out for ourselves rather than sincerely seeking the good of others.
The second grouping of people, those to whom the Kingdom of God will be given so that it will produce good fruit, are those who understand that the central purpose of life is not to simply enrich themselves but to share the love of God with others. These are the people who are constantly looking for ways that they can be a true blessing to others. It’s the difference between selfishness and generosity.
But the generosity to which we are primarily called is to build up the Kingdom of God. This is done through works of charity, but it must be a charity that is motivated by the Gospel and has the Gospel as its ultimate end. Caring for the needy, teaching, serving and the like are all good only when Christ is the motivation and end goal. Our lives must make Jesus more known and loved, more understood and followed. In fact, even if we were to feed a multitude of people in poverty, care for those who were sick, or visit those who were lonely, but did it for reasons other than to ultimately share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our work would not produce the good fruit of building up the Kingdom of Heaven. In that case, we would only be philanthropists rather than missionaries of the love of God.
Reflect, today, upon the mission given to you by our Lord to produce an abundance of good fruit for the upbuilding of His Kingdom. Know that this can only be accomplished by prayerfully seeking out the way God is inspiring you to act. Seek to serve His will alone so that all you do will be for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.
My glorious King, I pray that Your Kingdom will grow and that many souls will come to know You as their Lord and God. Use me, dear Lord, for the upbuilding of that Kingdom and help all my actions in life to bear abundant and good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.
Consolation for the Repentant Sinner
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
“Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.” Luke 15:22–24
This was the reaction of the faithful son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Recall that after squandering his inheritance, the Prodigal Son returns home humiliated and poor, asking his father if he will take him back and treat him as if he were a hired hand. But the father surprises him and throws a huge party for the son to celebrate his return. But the father’s other son, the one who remained with him throughout the years, would not join in the celebration.
Was it fair that the father killed the fatted calf and threw this large party to celebrate his wayward son’s return? Was it fair that that same father apparently never even gave his faithful son a young goat to feast on with his friends? The right answer is that this is the wrong question.
It’s easy for us to live in such a way that we always want things to be “fair.” And when we perceive that another receives more than us, we can get angry and bitter. But asking whether or not this is fair is not the right question. When it comes to the mercy of God, God’s generosity and goodness far exceed what is perceived as fair. And if we are to share in the abundant mercy of God, we too must learn to rejoice in His superabundant mercy.
In this story, the act of mercy given to his wayward son was exactly what that son needed. He needed to know that no matter what he had done in the past, his father loved him and rejoiced in his return. Therefore, this son needed an abundance of mercy partly to reassure him of his father’s love. He needed this extra consolation so as to become convinced that he made the right choice in returning.
The other son, the one who had remained faithful throughout the years, was not treated unfairly. Rather, his discontent came from the fact that he himself lacked the same abundant mercy present in the heart of his father. He failed to love his brother to the same extent and, therefore, failed to see the need to offer this consolation to his brother as a way of helping him understand he was forgiven and welcomed back. Mercy is very demanding and far exceeds what we may at first perceive as rational and just. But if we desire to receive mercy in abundance, we must be ready and willing to offer it to those who need it the most.
Reflect, today, upon how merciful and generous you are willing to be, especially toward those who do not appear to deserve it. Remind yourself that the life of grace is not about being fair; it’s about being generous to a shocking extent. Commit yourself to this depth of generosity toward all and look for ways that you can console another’s heart with the mercy of God. If you do, that generous love will also bless your heart in abundance.
My most generous Lord, You are compassionate beyond what I can fathom. Your mercy and goodness far exceed what any of us deserve. Help me to be eternally grateful for Your goodness and help me to offer that same depth of mercy to those in most need. Jesus, I trust in You.