Immersed in Christ: March 8, 2020
Sunday, Second Week of Lent
The Event and the Glory that Motivate Discipleship
How much do I think about the event of Christ’s death and resurrection? Do I consciously base my whole life on the difference that event has made?
The Entrance Antiphon asks: “Remember your mercies, Lord, your tenderness from ages past.” Do I use my memory of God’s deeds in a way that gives me confidence God “will not let our enemies triumph over us”? Do I let the Liturgy of the Word remind me of what God has done in the past?
In the Opening Prayer we are looking for understanding, and for the vision of a goal that will encourage us: “Enlighten us with your word, that we may find the way to your glory.”
Jesus is the Word made flesh. His words are “spirit and life.” In the Liturgy of the Word we hear his voice, as we hear that of the Father. The Church teaches: “In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them. And the force and power in the word of God is so great that it remains the support and energy of the Church.” But to receive that power and support we have to listen to God’s words. And so we ask God, “Help us to hear your Son.” 1
God’s answer will be to show us Jesus, to let us see his glory so that when we lose sight of it we will remember, continue to listen to his words and follow his way.
The Responsorial (Psalm 33) asks, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” To “have mercy” is to come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship. And relationship is the result of interaction. It is on the basis of God’s interaction with us that we say “We place our trust in you.”
Genesis 12: 1-4 tells us that it all began with the event of God’s intervening in history to form a special relationship with one man — Abraham — and his descendants. This relationship was a covenant that committed God to take an active, guiding role in human history. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great.”
This is the act of mercy — of God’s entering into a special relationship with Abraham’s race — that is the first foundation of our trust. God’s promise to Abraham was realized in Jesus, in whom all those who become members of his body, the Church, are “sons and daughters in the Son,” children of God and children of Abraham. In Christ the promise is fulfilled: “All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”
Revealed in Jesus:
2 Timothy 1: 8-10 tells us that the full favor (grace) of the plan God began to implement through Abraham was “made manifest through the appearance of our Savior,” Jesus Christ. Through the Good News of his life, death and resurrection Jesus “has brought life and immortality into clear light.” And he “has called us to a holy life.”
We know through the Gospel that this “holy life” is actually divine life. Through Baptism we were incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross, into the event of his dying and rising. We died to our merely natural, human lives and rose to live as sharers in the divine life of Jesus. Our glory is to “be Christ.” And his glory is to be visibly, manifestly alive and risen in us. St. Irenaeus wrote: “Life in humans is the glory of God.” The proof of Christ’s resurrection and triumph is his divine life present and shining out unmistakably in those he has redeemed.
To live authentically as Christians we need to have some idea of the glory Jesus has in himself, and of how that glory should appear in us who are his body on earth. To understand what that glory is and should be, the Liturgy of the Word invites to reflect deeply on the Scriptures. That is why we prayed in the Opening Prayer, “Enlighten us with your word, that we may find the way to your glory.”
A vision of his glory:
In Matthew 17: 1-9 Jesus took three of his disciples — the same three he would take with him later in his agony in the garden — and led them up to the top of a mountain, where he was “transfigured before their eyes.” Something of the glory he had as God appeared visibly in his body — but only a very little bit, because they were still able to speak.
When Peter suggested, however, that they should put Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah, who embodied the Law and the Prophets, by building shrines to the three of them, the Father made it clear that Jesus was not on a par with anyone: he was infinitely superior to every human prophet or saint, no matter how great. “This,” the Father declared, “is my beloved Son.” And he spoke from within the shekinah, a cloud both opaque and luminous, which in Scripture is a sign of God’s presence.
The Father added: “Listen to him!”
We keep getting the same message. If we really want confidence that God “will not let our enemies triumph over us” we need to listen to his Son. If we want a motivating goal for our life, we need to take seriously Christ’s glory and ours, and keep striving to enter into it through deeper understanding and love.
We do this by reflecting on the words of God that show us his glory revealed in the Word made flesh. Jesus is not just an exemplary human being: he is God himself showing us how God would and did live in human flesh.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets. But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son... through whom he also created the worlds.
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being....
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
The glory revealed in Jesus is the glory God wants to reveal in us as his divine-human body on earth.
In the Transfiguration God gave us a glimpse of Jesus in his divine glory so that we would be encouraged to interact with him in his humanity: learning from his words and example how to live as humans who are divine; how to live on the level of God.
We learn this by interacting with Jesus as disciples: reading his words, asking questions, talking to him. But it has to be “hands on” learning. We don’t know what Jesus is talking about until we try to actually do what he says. We don’t know we are hearing his voice until we respond to his inspirations. We don’t experience ourselves as his body until we begin working with him for the establishment of God’s reign on earth, asking him to act with us, in us and through us in everything we do.
The starting point, however, and key to doing this well, is listening to him. We first have to become disciples, students dedicated to learning from him. For this we pray: “Lord, help us to hear your Son.”
By what standard do I measure my behavior? By human standards or God’s? By “right or wrong” (i.e. “reasonable”) or by “faith-inspired”? By what I see others around me doing, or by what I hear Jesus saying we should do?
Spend some time thinking about Jesus’ glory. How do you, will you share in it?
1 John 6:63; Vatican II, “Liturgy,” no. 33.
2 God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:9) was only a pledge not to destroy the human race. All who survived the flood are Noah’s descendants. But Abram and his family were a particular clan, the descendants of Noah’s son Shem (Genesis 10:1; 11: 10, 26).