2nd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2017
1st Reading: Genesis 12:1-4 ~ Abram went as the Lord directed him.
Psalm 33 ~ Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.
2nd Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Timothy 1:8-10 ~
Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. While Peter 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.”
Every time we come to the Eucharist, we go up the mountain and experience the transfiguration and the glory of God. Sometimes our clouds of anxiety, depression, fear, addictions or worldly affairs prevent us from seeing even the love of God. That is so sad.
I am a licensed mental health counselor and I counsel part time at a psychiatric hospital in Jacksonville. Many of the people have serious addictions that require treatment plans and a commitment to sobriety. It is like some of the things that we fast from during lent. Many of us give up sugar with a secret benefit of losing weight. There is nothing wrong with that, except after Lent we begin to realize that nothing has changed and it sometimes get worse. We relapse to not bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
When we listen to Jesus and do a fast that he suggests, we would be foolish to stop that fast after Easter Sunday. God is very clear in saying, “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” In other words, Jesus is taking us up the mountain with Peter, James and John to undergo a reality check. We say here at Queen of Peace: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” I would like to propose that, “Lent never ends, we take it with us.” When Lent is over, we don’t go back to the way we were before Lent. When an addict quits drugs, alcohol, or internet porn, they can never go back. If they do, we call it relapse. Most addicts go through many relapses before they find total peace and sobriety. We do it one day at a time and humbly admit our weakness.
In order to heal we ask addicts to go to anonymous meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). This is so they can replace a bad habit with a good habit. It is like seatbelts. Why do we wear seatbelts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seatbelts in the car. We knew wearing a seatbelts increases the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rearview mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wakeup call to take this season seriously, to listen to Jesus. Eternal life depends on it.
When I look at the group of men or women before me, they are detoxed from their destructive behavior. They are balanced. Sometimes I play my flute and ask them to breathe in… and breathe out… After I play, it seems that their anxiety and depression are momentarily balanced and they seem quite normal. I believe they are normal. We all need depression to sleep and we all need anxiety to wake up. It is when they are out of balance that trouble snowballs. They need to take this calm and serenity out into the world even when they are triggered or tempted. We must stay calm when we encounter the Cross.
We are like a little toddler having a temper tantrum because Mom is weaning the child off of breast milk. The key to recovery of any addiction, including getting into bad relationships, is to wean our selves off. Our hope is to come to Easter as mature Christians who not only accept the Body of Christ into our bodies, but also the Blood of Christ. If you choose to give up chocolate for Lent, you will never see God until you give up chocolate for the rest of your lives. If you choose to go on a mission to a poor nation, you will have to go on mission every year. But we can do this in our mind. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seatbelt of sobriety in the morning. Today I will not drink. Today, I will be God’s child. All of us need to be weaned off of worldly things and mean it when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to go up the mountain and then listen to God’s Beloved Son.
Beloved, our fast must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our fast must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. My fast is to continue to visit those imprisoned by addictions and to be an instrument of God’s peace to console, to understand and to love. In the book, The Imitation of Christ, we hear, “Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. But if Jesus hide Himself and leave them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.” (Thomas A Kempis)
Jesus is trying to wean us so that we too hear God’s voice, “You are my Beloved”
We all must wrestle with God from time to time, just like child being weaned wrestles with its mother. Jesus lived and breathed the psalms. He cried out Psalm 22 and 63 on the Cross. Before we sing “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want”, we need to understand Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me, why so far from me?” The following psalm is for us to when we experience the transfiguration of our souls.
O Lord my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me
Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace
A weaned child on its mother’s breast,
even so my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
both now and forever.