Formed By the Word

Second Sunday of Lent-March 12th, 2017

Preparing for the Word

Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.       
        O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will.  

Reading the Word

Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina. You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or others.

Gospel                                                                 Matthew 17:1-9

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.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 
"Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here, 
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, 
then from the cloud came a voice that said, 
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him."
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
"Rise, and do not be afraid."
And when the disciples raised their eyes, 
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
"Do not tell the vision to anyone 
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

For all of the readings for the First Sunday of Lent are on the USCCB website

Reflecting on the Word

Fresco of the Transfiguration (detail) Decani Monastery, Kosovo

During the Lenten retreat that we make together as the Body of Christ the Church draws our attention to two currents of spiritual change in our lives as Christians. 

The first current of change depends primarily on our will (aided by God’s grace).  During Lent all of the baptized undertake penitential and ascetical practices  intended to deepen our life of prayer; mortify and discipline our appetites and habits and help us to grow in charity and generosity. 

But there is a second current of spiritual change that is easy to overlook, but is even more foundational: the change effected in us by our baptism into the death and resurrection of the Lord.  Lent, which began as, (and remains), an intense period of spiritual preparation for the catechumens who would be baptized at Easter, is, for, the already baptized faithful, the renewal of our baptismal commitment and life.This is why the Church invites us, every year,on the Second Sunday of Lent to meditate together on the significance of Jesus’ transfiguration on Mt.Tabor.  

At first glance, the story of the transfiguration seems out of place for Lent. Commentators on the liturgy do note that during the transfiguration Jesus discussed his impending sacrificial death with Moses and Elijah. They also explain that afterwards Jesus told his disciples NOT to tell anyone about the vision until after he had been raised from the dead. 

The gospel of the Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent has conventionally been understood as encouragement to persevere in the spiritual practices of Lent and to look forward to the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.

Or, perhaps the gospel of the transfiguration is always proclaimed during Lent to help us to embrace the change effected in us by our baptism. Transfiguration, which is how we translate the Greek word ‘metamorphoses (the word literally means to “change form”), is to be utterly and completely transformed. Biologists use the word ‘metamorphoses to describe the physical and physiological changes that transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly.

On the Second Sunday of Lent we are shown a vision, not only of the transfiguration of Jesus, but of our own transfiguration, Our own metamorphosis, our own total transformation, in the waters of baptism. In baptism we are liberated from our subjugation to sin and the tyranny of the Evil One, and are made, by adoption,beloved sons and daughtersin whom the grace and favor of the Father rests.Recall the two ancient terms that the Church uses for the baptized: photismoi and neophytes . All of us, in baptism become photismoi, literally, “those filled with light”.  Every one of us has been illumined by Christ every one of us is filled with his light, holiness and life.  Having been illumined in Christ, all of us became ‘neophytes’ , literally, ‘new creatures’, new creations in Christ.

At our baptism each of us was  presented with a burning candle and the priest said: “You have been enlightened by Christ: walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart.”

At our baptism each of us was clothed in the white garment (alb) and the priest said, “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. Receive this baptismal garment and bring it unstained to the judgement seat of Jesus Christ.”

As baptized members of the assemblywe don’t ordinarily wear our white baptismal garments to Mass, (although you could!) But it is this white garment which symbolizes for Christians our transformation in baptism, the foundation of our life in Christ and of all the sacraments.  This is why our children wear white dresses and suits for First Communion; why brides (and in some cultures, the groom) wear white for their wedding;and why at a Catholic funeral we cover the coffin with a white cloth. 

Our baptismal identity in Christ means that our allegiance to Christ and to his gospelmust come first: in our values, in our choices and in our actions. Our truest identity is found in him and not in our family, class, race, gender, ethnicity or nationality.  First and foundationally, we belong to Christ before we belong to any other person, group or institution.

In the gospel account of the Transfiguration, (and even more clearly in the traditional Eastern Christian icon of the feast) we see Jesus, transformed and filled with light. Looking at Jesus, his face shining like the sun and wearing clothes white as light, we are invited to see our own metamorphosis, our transfiguration and our transformation in the dying and rising of Jesus.

Radiant in their baptism, as if clothed daily in their brilliantly white baptismal garments, Christians should be as easy to see in this world as Jesus was at Mt. Tabor. Unfortunately, too often our temptation, is to put on camouflage and blend-inby adopting the values and priorities of this world.   

During this season of Lent our penitential practices are intended to strip away whatever covers up and conceals our new life in Christ.  Having put on Christ in baptism, we are called during Lent we imitate and obey him when we enter into the inner room of our hearts to spend time in prayer, as Jesus did, with the Father. 

Having been clothed in Christ in baptism, we deny ourselves, as Jesus did in the desert, so that by overcoming our own will in the small matter of food and drink, we might allow him to direct us in the large matter of doing the Father’s will daily. 

Having been enlightened by Christ in baptism, as children of the light we strive to keep the flame of faith burning bright in our hearts by doing good for others, to learn the joy of giving freely as Jesus did.   In this way, we make the generous and transforming love of God radiant and believable in midst of the world’s darkness and disbelief.

Pondering the Word

In meditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart. You may find the following questions helpful in doing this.  

1. How is Jesus inviting me to grow closer to him in this reading.     
2. Is there anything currently in my life, in my past, in my disposition that is keeping me from growing closer to Jesus? 
3. In what ways am I tempted to hide or camouflage my Christian identity in daily life?                                                                                      4. How has being a baptized Christian transformed your life? 
5. How or in what ways do I desire Jesus to heal or forgive what is wounded in me or to help me to recognize and be grateful for his love for me? 
6. In what ways is Jesus calling me to follow him at this moment in my life.

Praying the Word                                                                                                                           

In oratitio, the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to prayer. Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus heart-to-hear.

Closing Prayer

You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer:

O God, who have commanded us 
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, 
that, with spiritual sight made pure, 
we may rejoice to behold your glory.   

Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.