Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A 2023
Readings: Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 32(33):4-5, 18-20, 22; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Dear friends in Christ,
Relinquishment is hard even if it is essential to growth and transformation. To forgo the joys of our childish ways for our adulthood always comes with a bit of pain and stress, because it is not easy to let go of the things we have gotten comfortable with. A friend of mine who is a mother to a teenage son shared her experience of accompanying him to maturity. At some point, she had to learn and surrender her natural instincts to watch, protect, safeguard and keep the child within her arm’s reach. It was a struggle to give up what she treasured and to navigate a new terrain of freedom and responsibility associated with a young adult.
Relinquishment is even harder when it comes to institutional resistance. We resist change and fight a rearguard action against those who we perceive as a threat to our familiar and security old world. We Catholics need to wake up to the reality that the Church is no longer in the safe harbour of Christendom or any semblance of it. Instead, we are in this uncharted territory of the new Babylon. The Church is in this liminal space between the death of the old comfort zone and the emergence of the new reality, which we must come to terms with. We must not lose sight of the invitation to embark on a new adventure with God as he helps us to step out of the old and into the new. It is not in yearning for or holding on the known and the familiar but in reimagining the future and venturing into the unknown chaos like the old Exodus that we shall find new life.
Scriptures on this second Sunday of Lent give us a poignant lesson in overcoming our fears and in living our lives with courage, vision and hope. In the first reading from Genesis, Abram- a name which means great father- was called to undertake a journey of transformation: he would leave his familiar surroundings and people in order to become God’s instrument for a renewed creation. He would become Abraham, meaning “Father of the multitude”.
Abraham’s journey was a giant leap of faith, a leap into the unfamiliar, insecure and vulnerable. He abandoned every form of human security and placed his trust solely in God. Abraham teaches us that faith is not synonymous with certitude, satisfaction and fulfilment. So often, Christian faith has been distorted into prosperity, power, arrogance, violence and scapegoating against the weak and vulnerable. The God of Abraham accompanies us on a journey of vulnerable trust, solidarity and relational fidelity. Thus, to follow this God is to relinquish the default position of self-interest and to walk the path of openness and compassion.
Abraham’s journey of transformation through faith is also reflected in the story of the Transfiguration. It took place at a critical moment on the way to Jerusalem. The disciples had confronted the question “who do you say that I am”. Jesus had revealed to them that he was going to be not a powerful Messiah of popular imagination but a suffering servant. In contrast with the powers that be, he had opted for the road less travelled, the unpopular pathway of humility, service and selflessness. The disciples, however, were still transfixed on power and glory.
In the Transfiguration, they were given a moment of encouragement and an unmistakable message. “This is my Beloved Son, listen to him”. These words can be understood as an invitation to follow Jesus in his imminent suffering, passion and death. The Transfiguration is meant to give them new courage to walk the painful journey ahead that would ultimately prove to be the litmus test of Christian discipleship.
The Gospel uses the word that is akin to metamorphosis to describe the Transfiguration. Perhaps that is what we the Body of Christ need to undergo as we shake off the old vestiges of the imperial Christendom with its penchant for triumphalism, power, pomp and circumstance. Such relinquishment is required for us to rise to new ways of embodying the Gospel of powerlessness, simplicity, service and compassion. St Paul in the letter to Timothy speaks of trust in the grace of God instead of “anything we ourselves have done”. Living the paschal pattern requires us to divest from the worldly accretions of power, influence and affluence.
This weekend, I have formally announced the celebration of our first Diocesan Synod. I invite you to walk this journey of transformation together, which I firmly believe can revitalize our local Church. Pope Francis tells us that the journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from His church in the third millennium. The Diocesan Synod is a vehicle for synodality that will help us launch into a better and more life-giving future ahead.
“Stand up and be not afraid”. Let these words of Jesus today give us courage as we accompany one another along this path with firm hope and abiding trust in the God who leads us beyond our fear and resistance.
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