•Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 • Romans 8:31b-34 • Mark 9:2-10•
Scripture Readings: Second Sunday in Lent
I presume all of you keep the Lenten custom of “giving up” something. You know what? I am not even slightly interested in learning “what” you are “giving up.” I really am curious about why you are doing that? What is your purpose or your goal in “giving up” whatever it is? Today I encourage you to dare something. Do something far greater than a little bit of self-denial!
In a recent issue of N.C.R. I found this story. On their first visit to a mall an elderly Amish couple and family were mesmerized! They roamed from store to store. Then the elderly woman came to an elevator. She watched another elderly man approach the elevator. The doors open. The elderly man enters. The doors close. A minute later, the doors open and a guy, looking like George Clooney steps out. That scene is repeated several more times. Finally she excitedly calls her daughter, “Quick, go get your father!”
Transformation! Lent is about spiritual transformation. On Mt. Tabor three of Christ’s companions had a profound experience of personal transformation. They came down from that mountaintop with a new awareness. When Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of God,” — “God’s new reality”, they now understood he was promoting the transformation of people and cultures.
And so today on this Second Sunday of Lent, I encourage you to dare something far greater than a little bit of self-denial! Mark’s Jesus expects us — we the baptized, to continue his task. That requires our personal transformation. He calls us to the mountaintop, so join Peter, James and John.
Spiritual transformation occurs when we draw near to Christ in a personal manner and learn from him. Doing so will help us understand what he meant by “the Kingdom of God.” As you begin to understand the implications of “God’s new reality,” you will begin to see others and the world as Christ does. Then you will begin to think and act as Christ thinks and acts. This does not happen by going into an elevator or simply by “giving something up.”
Spiritual transformation is about seeing, thinking and acting as Christ sees, thinks and acts. Such transformation will measure the success of your Lent, regardless of “what you give up.”
Francis of Rome can serve as a guide. One day, while in the Holy Land, Francis unexpectedly told the motorcade to stop. He walked alone to the Israeli “separation wall.” He leaned on the wall and prayed. Obviously he sees Israel’s policy and practice of “apartheid” as Christ sees it. Francis consistently criticizes the dominant economic system in which we live for the extremely unequal concentrations of wealth produced by that system. In 2011, APPLE’S CEO received 378 million dollars (378 million dollars!) in salary, stock and other benefits!!! Francis sees such “economic inequality” as Christ sees it, and names it the root of all social evil.
You, and I care about those who suffer from apartheid or economic inequality, or terrorism or militarism and so on. The problem for most of us is this. Our minds and hearts are filled with distractions. We know little or nothing about the underlying causes of human grief.
The gospels tell us the historical Jesus said, “blessed are the pure of heart!” I think that means, “blessed are those free of distractions.” Dare something far greater than a little bit of self-denial! Join Peter, James and John on the mountaintop. Examine your thoughts, habits and modes of being. Identify for yourself anything and everything that is a distraction preventing you from loving or blocking your freedom to love. Examine your TV-viewing habits and your listening habits. The sort of music, news and entertainment you watch or hear either informs and inspires you, or reinforces non-gospel bias and distracts you. Christ calls us to the mountaintop because he expects us to continue his task of transforming people and cultures, enabling “God’s new reality” to emerge in and among us. Lent is about personal spiritual transformation that will happen as you pay attention to and remove all that clutters your mind or spirit.