23 February 2013

IN PRAYER


Second Sunday of Lent
Lk 9:28b-36 (Gn 15:5-12, 17-18 / Ps 27 / Phil 3:17-4:1)

Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday.  The Gospel every Ash Wednesday does not change no matter what year we are in.  It is always taken from Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 where Jesus, among other things, admonishes us to pray better rather than more.  Certainly, such a lesson from the Lord we need very much because we often have the tendency to double our prayers when Lent comes.  Praying better, not praying more, is what Lent should always be.


While the Gospel for Ash Wednesday is always taken from Matthew regardless of what year it is, the evangelist for the Sunday after Ash Wednesday – which is the First Sunday of Lent – changes.  In the liturgical cycle, the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent during Year A is from Matthew, during Year B is from Mark, and during Year C – which is this year – is from Luke.  Coming from different evangelists, the Gospels for each of those years, however, are generally and essentially the same.  They are all about the temptation of Jesus by the devil.  And in all three versions, the devil tempted Jesus while Jesus was in the wilderness where He fasted for forty days and forty nights.  Jesus was practically on a spiritual retreat, a heightened prayerful milieu, when He was tempted just before He began His public ministry.


These three Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – are called the “Synoptics”.  A Greek prefix, syn means “together” or “with” while optikos, another Greek word, is “seen”.  Thus, synoptikos literally means “seen together”.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are synoptikos because they look at Jesus, as it were, from the same point of view.  In their story of Jesus, the Synoptic Gospels have many similarities.  And the Transfiguration narrative, our Gospel for today, the Second Sunday of Lent, is one example of those similarities, except for one detail.


In the Mark’s version of the Lord’s Transfiguration, Mk 9:2-13, we read, “…Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There He was transfigured before them.”  In Mt 17:1-13, we have almost a verbatim repetition: “…Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them to a high mountain by themselves.  There He was transfigured before them.”  But Luke, as we read in the Gospel (Cf. Lk 9:28-36) for this Mass, has this: “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.  While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.”


Though essentially the same with Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts, Luke introduces a detail we quite often overlook in the Transfiguration narrative: prayer.  This, indeed, is a little feature in the story of the Lord’s Transfiguration but it spells a lot.  Moreover, I believe that whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke intentionally added this detail in the narrative.  Now we know why Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain.  Certainly, the Lord did so not to show off to His three closest friends, almost blinding them with the brightness of His glory.  Luke is very clear with Jesus’ intention in taking Peter, James, and John to a high mountain: He wanted to pray.  Jesus intended to pray either with them together or perhaps alone but in their company.  Prayer was Jesus’ purpose, not transfiguration.  But, by the Father’s design, it was “while He was praying” that Jesus was transfigured before the three disciples.


It is highly significant to note that, according to the Gospel of Luke, in the key moments of His life, Jesus is found praying.  In Lk 3:21-22, after He was baptized, Jesus is praying when the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove, and the Father says, “You are my Son whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”  At the transfiguration, the Father speaks again, affirming that Jesus is indeed His Son, but now with a command given: “Listen to Him.”  In Lk 4:1-12, as I mentioned earlier in this reflection, Jesus is practically in a heightened experience of prayer when the devil tempts Him.  In Lk 22:39-42, Jesus is in intense prayer, too, when an angel from heaven came to Him in the garden of Gethsemane to strengthen Him as He agonizes over His impending death.  And, in the 24th chapter of Luke, Jesus, hanging on the cross, is actually praying as He utters His first and final words: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (v. 34) and “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit” (v. 46).  Truly, the key moments in the life of Jesus are not only moments in prayer but are prayerful moments, too.  And it is in these moments of deep communion with God that Jesus receives strength and much needed consolation from God who affirms Him as His Son, His Beloved, His Chosen One, on whom His favor rests.  As His true identity is made clear to Jesus so is God’s identity clearly manifested to Him: God is His Father who does not forsake Him but glorifies Him instead even in the midst of suffering and death.


This apparently is God’s way.  And He does it best!  As we read in the first reading today from the book of Genesis, it is in His colloquy with Abram that God reveals to him who He is and who Abram and his descendants are in relation to Him: “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.”  As the story of Abraham progresses unto the Exodus event, God enters into a covenant with Israel: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Cf. Ex 6:7).  His identity and Israel’s identity are both revealed within the context of a covenant that is ritually sealed by prayer and sacrificial offering.


The Apostle Paul in the second reading today, for his part, tells us what happens when we, the New Israel, forget who we are in relation to God and who God should be for us: “Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame’.  Their minds are occupied with earthly things” (Phil 3:19).  We know that the Apostle speaks the truth, for we not only see this happen to others but experience it ourselves.


Lent is not only about Jesus.  Lent is not for Jesus alone.  Lent is about you and me, too.  Lent is Jesus taking us and leading us up a high mountain.  We must make sure that our purpose in going with Jesus up that mountain is the same as His: to pray.  And in our praying with Jesus, let us search ourselves for honest answers to these questions: In the key moments of my life where am I to be found?  Does my prayer make clear to me my identity and mission?  Am I really open to the God who reveals Himself to me in prayer?


But as Jesus leads us up a high mountain, so does He take us down from it.  Please make sure, too, that you are not left behind on top of that mountain.  For transfiguration is not our goal, but resurrection.  And that does not happen there, but beyond another mountain called “Calvary”.

3 Comments:

At 12:14 PM , Blogger Lami said...

I am loving your posts.. Keep posting because even though people may not comment they are reading them.. Very inspirational :-)

 
At 6:29 AM , Blogger Fr. Bobby said...

Thank you very much, Lami. Keep on sharing your CRUMBS. +

 
At 6:29 AM , Blogger Fr. Bobby said...

Thank you very much, Lami. Keep on sharing your CRUMBS. +

 

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