The course of time keeps speeding by. It seems that Christmas was just a few days ago and now we are already in the second week of Lent. As we know, Lent (Quadragesima) is the forty-day penitential season that culminates in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. In the Bible, the number forty is associated with several important events in the history of salvation: the Israelites spent forty years in the desert; it took Elijah forty days to journey to Horeb; and Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert. This season makes us think of our journey of life. Our lifetime is like a long Lent, a season of forty years in the desert.
But the desert is not the only symbol we can use to describe our earthly life. Life is also a mountain climb. While we suffer from hardships along the way, we also aspire to something higher. We strive to see more and to climb above our mundane routines. In order to make real progress in our journey, we need guidance. Today’s readings remind us of the importance of listening – especially, listening to God and to his beloved Son.
Listening involves more than simply letting the other speak. Acting on what we hear is a crucial part of the process. St. James tells us, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (Jas 1:22). Listening to the word of God in the fullest sense means making the fulfillment of God’s will the topmost priority in our life.
Today we reflect on our father Abraham as a model listener. In the reading from Genesis, twice he hears God’s call and both times he immediately answers, “Here I am!” When God gives him an instruction, Abraham acts without delay. With faith and trust, he obeys the word of God, surrendering his own plans and preferences. He is even ready to surrender his son, his only one, whom he loves, in obedience to God.
Making God’s will our topmost priority means more than simply accepting the ups and downs of life. Commitment to his will means breaking our own self-will. It can mean surrendering what is most precious to us, even our closest loved ones. The journey of conversion, like the climbing of a mountain, is far from easy. Among the central challenges of this season is the emotional and spiritual battle involved in obeying the will of God in all things. The process is difficult, but we should not let ourselves be intimidated by it. We are not journeying alone; we are not fighting alone. Jesus has already gained victory for us through his Death and Resurrection. St. Paul reminds us that we have nothing to fear. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Furthermore, life is not all sorrowful mysteries. By God’s mercy we also have many joyful, luminous, and even glorious moments. He gives us light and wisdom, strength and hope, so that we can persevere on our difficult journey. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was an unforgettable moment of glory for Peter, James and John. Suddenly they saw a glimpse of a glorious future. They realized that “it is good that we are here.” They heard the Father telling them to listen to Jesus, his beloved Son. This was enough grace to strengthen them for the hard road ahead.
Jesus tells the Apostles not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration until after his Resurrection. For a while, the grace was for them alone. Now, the story of their amazing vision is known all over the world. The Apostles have proclaimed what happened as part of the Good News. They want us to share in the grace they received. The Transfiguration tells us to persevere in listening to Jesus and obeying him. It reminds us that we journey with the sure hope of a glorious future, and all the sufferings and losses we experience along the way are nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed (cf. Rm 8:18).
May this season of Lent be a meaningful journey for all of us. May it be a time of less talking and more listening and obeying, so that God may transform us until we too are radiant with his glory. Amen.
Is Abraham an example of faith and trust in God’s will for me no matter the cost? This Lent, am I ready to face the emotional and spiritual battle involving God’s will in all things? In all the sufferings that I may experience, will I recall the hope of the glorious future in perseverance?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.