Second Sunday of Lent
Sermon by Father Alex McAllister SDS
The readings today are all about calling. We hear about the call of Abraham in the First Reading, the call of Jesus in the Gospel extract and in the Second Reading St Paul speaks about the call of each Christian.
In the Book of Genesis, after the account of the creation, we are told how man fell into sin and drifted further and further away from God. It is a sorry tale. We are told about Cain and Abel, about the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel. All stories of selfishness and the sidelining of God.
But then there is a sudden change. God intervenes in the story and picks out Abraham, or Abram as he was then, and makes him the head of a chosen people and so begins God's great work of salvation which culminates in the Pascal Mystery.
This call of Abraham is the text of our First Reading today. There are some important things to observe. Firstly, it was God who chose Abraham, not Abraham who chose God.
It is also vital to understand that God made this choice entirely of his own volition not because of anything Abraham had done. It was not for any merit or specialness on his part or because he somehow deserved it, but as a result of the simple decision of God.
Then God tells Abraham to leave his home and go to the land which he will show him. Abraham is already old but this is not seen as an obstacle by God. He tells him to leave everything behind and begin a journey, a great pilgrimage of faith.
And lastly, God blesses Abraham and all the generations after him; God promises his protection and tells him that they will be his special witnesses to the whole world.
There is no hint that Abraham opposes any of these plans God has for him despite his age or the many difficulties he knew he would face; as its says, ‘Abram went as the Lord told him.'
This is powerful stuff. And after many years and all kinds of events and obstacles God's plan finally reaches its culmination in the life of Jesus and what he accomplished in Jerusalem in the tremendous events of his Passion.
Like Abraham Jesus too was asked to leave his home and begin a great journey. His homeland, of course, is heaven. And the journey is the great work he was to accomplish here on earth.
God blessed Abraham and he blesses Jesus too. He blesses Jesus on two particular occasions. The first is at the very start of Jesus' ministry at his Baptism and the second we have before us as today and it takes place on Mount Tabor where he is Transfigured.
The two Old Testament figures who are seen alongside Jesus on the mountain, Moses and Elijah, are often thought to represent the Law and the Prophets. But they can also be seen as making clear what the work of Jesus really entailed.
He was to complete the work of Moses who brought the Chosen People into the Promised Land of Canaan and he is to do this by leading God's people into the Promised Land of Heaven.
Jesus was also to complete the work of Elijah who worked so tirelessly to draw the people away from idol worship and lead them back to worship of the one true God.
The Second Reading is about our own calling and Paul tells us that, like Abraham, this call comes to us unbidden. It is not the result of any merit on our part. God simply chooses us. This is something that we need to constantly reflect upon.
First, we should understand that we have indeed been chosen. God didn't call everyone but he has called us. He has called us, as individuals, to faith so that we can be his witnesses.
Perhaps he has placed us in believing families or he may have put a certain set of circumstances in our way which has led us to faith. But make no mistake about it, this is God's doing. He is truly working in our lives. He wants us to be with him and he has a special role for us. We are a crucial part of his plan for the salvation of the world.
We also must understand clearly that there are no personal qualities that we possess which caused God to single us out so that he could bestow on us the gift of faith. Indeed, we might often think that it was precisely because we were nothing very special that God chose us.
And we must further realise just what a blessing all this is for us. Often, we might see our faith as a burden, an obligation, perhaps even an inconvenience. But we would be quite wrong to view our faith in this way; it is no mere cultural hangover or the result of an historical accident nor is it something we just fell into.
We would be very mistaken to see our calling as anything other than a tremendous, if undeserved, blessing. As with Abraham, our journey of faith is a long one; it has many twists and turns, many complicated byways, peculiar detours and fresh starts. But this journey, this pilgrimage of faith, that we have undertaken will undoubtedly bring us many blessings and it will ultimately lead us to eternal life.
On the Holy Mountain our Lord was Transfigured. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light and the voice of God was heard in blessing and approval. This was the true nature of Jesus shining through. He let his glory be seen to the small inner circle of Apostles.
Something similar needs to happen to us; our whole life should be seen as a gradual process of Transfiguration. Our whole purpose should be to allow the light of God to shine through us.
There are many things which can help us to do this. Attending mass regularly and making the reception of the Eucharist an integral part of our lives is, of course, key. Other things include daily prayer and sharing our faith with others; as well celebrating the other sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation which allows us to experience God's healing and forgiveness in a profound way.
Our family life is another area which we can transform by our practice of the Christian faith. Living a life of deep respect and love for each other means that we are putting the Gospel into practice in the very heart of our home.
As we negotiate the various events of our life, such as change of job, moving house, financial changes, health issues, sadness, or good fortune, we can allow them to be graced by God's love so that they become not just occurrences but part and parcel of our pilgrimage of faith.
If we live our lives in this way, then our eventual death becomes our last act of worship. It becomes the opening of a door leading us to the vision of Christ who will shine on us far more brightly than he ever did on that Holy Mountain.