March 6, 2020

Second Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis is the source of the first reading for Mass on this weekend. As its name implies, Genesis reveals the divine origin of life and Almighty God’s plan in the forming of the Hebrew race.

First and foremost, Genesis is a splendidly vivid revelation of God’s majesty and power, but also of the dignity of humanity and purpose of life. It is a pity that this marvelous book has been tortured and misconstrued by well-meaning but uninformed readers over the years. Genesis is not about the details of how creation occurred because scientific conclusions in this regard dramatically have changed through the centuries.

This weekend’s reading is about Abraham. Considered by scholars to have been a historical person, Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish people.

The reading makes several points. God is active in human affairs. He communicates with humans, and they with him.

Abraham has a strong faith. God rewards this faith by pledging that Abraham’s descendants, until the end of time, will be his special people. This dignity confers obligation. Descendants of Abraham must be loyal to God and reveal him to the world.

For its second reading, this weekend’s liturgy presents a passage from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.

Timothy was a disciple of Paul. The Church venerates Timothy as a great saint who was important in the formation of Christianity. Timothy was the son of a pagan father and a devout Jewish mother. He was also Paul’s secretary at one point. Once, Timothy was imprisoned with Paul, although Timothy eventually was released. According to tradition, Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus, then a major city. Its present ruins lie on the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey.

In this reading, Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in his Christian belief despite many difficulties and obstacles.

St. Matthew’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is the story of the transfiguration of the Lord. It is ablaze with symbols of God with which any Jew of Jesus’ day instantly would have been familiar, as these images appear throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

In this reading are references to brilliant light, mountaintops, a voice from the sky, and pure white, all associated with God. Finally, surrounding Jesus were Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of the Jews.

This scene totally contrasts with Calvary, where, instead of appearing in shimmering clothes, Jesus was stripped of his garments. Instead of glowing clouds and brilliant light, gloom and darkness surrounded the cross.

Reflection

Lent is little more than one week along, and already the Church is encouraging us and reinforcing our faith, just as Jesus strengthened the faith of the Apostles who stood trembling before the divine sight manifested on the mountain.

The message is clear. Jesus is God, active and present among us.

To be saved, we must truly believe. More than voicing words, we must commit our lives to Christ. So, Abraham is critically a part of this weekend’s lesson as an example.

While nowhere in these readings is any account of the crucifixion or the other events of Good Friday, recalling the Lord’s death on the cross is essential to understanding fully this weekend’s message.

Calvary represents the world. For a moment, seemingly, earthly power and human sin triumphed over good. Certainly, the enemies of Jesus saw the crucifixion as their victory. Jesus died, but then came the wonder of Easter.

Every human being can be tricked into assuming that earthly things or satisfaction will bring them reward. They do not. Ignoring God brings death. It has been proven untold millions of times.

So, the Church counsels us to have faith, to look beyond the gloom, and to follow the light of Jesus. Remember the transfiguration. Remember Abraham. Remember what actually matters in life. †

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