March 15, 2019

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 this weekend. It is a story about Abraham, whom the Jews regard as the father of their race. Abraham is also seen as the spiritual father of all who know and honor the one God; hence he is a special figure in the religious traditions of Christians and Muslims.

Scholars believe that Abraham was an actual person, not the figment of imagination or a figure constructed in some literary effort.

Several points are important in hearing or reading this passage. First, God communicates with Abraham. God is in Abraham’s world, but also above and beyond Abraham’s world. He is no human’s peer. People do not relate to God as if he were an equal. Nevertheless, God is present and interacts with them.

God has command over nature and the living beings of nature. He can order Abraham to capture animals and sacrifice them. Since the animals that Abraham captured were sacred, as they were intended for sacrifice to praise God, Abraham protected them from being taken away by predators. It is not as if birds of prey were inherently evil, although Jewish tradition later would proscribe eating the flesh of any bird of prey, or any other predator. Rather, they simply were victims of their own instincts and impulses. God is merciful and protects the good.

Abraham himself is vulnerable. Darkness overtakes his heart and mind. Literally, the sun sets. He is terrified. God promises him and his offspring life in a place of their own, of utter security.

The second reading is from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Philippi was in northern Greece, its name honoring the father of Alexander the Great, but home to a Christian community. For Christians, temptations to defect were many.

Paul wrote to the Christian Philippians to give them direction and encouragement. He expanded their knowledge of Jesus. He challenged them to be loyal and fervent disciples.

In this reading St. Paul says that human beings are imperfect, even more so because of their willful sinning. Human bodies are “lowly” because they are subject to death, Paul declares (Phil 3:21). Christ elevates and restores humans. In Jesus, human beings will never die if they earnestly follow the Lord.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is Luke’s story of the transfiguration, a story found also in Mark and Matthew.

The story is powerful. As is so often the case in New Testament accounts, Apostles are with Jesus at a very important moment. In this case, Peter, James and John accompany Jesus. The Apostles knew Jesus. They interacted with him. They certainly saw his human characteristics.

Because of the transfiguration, they saw the divinity of Jesus. The Lord showed them this divinity. On their own, being only human, they were unable to see it. Strong symbols from Hebrew tradition conveyed the reality of this divine identity. God spoke from a cloud. Gleaming light surrounded Jesus.

Jesus perfected the tradition of God’s relating to people and protecting them. Beside Jesus were the prophets Moses and Elijah, with whom God also had communicated.


The Church this weekend offers us several important lessons intended to strengthen us in our Lenten resolve, and ultimately in our Christian commitment.

First, we are not almighty or all‑knowing. We are humans. Second, in our human limitation we are shortsighted, even blind at times. Third, we all physically will die. Fourth, God loves us with the love shown Abraham and the prophets. He loves us in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus is our only hope. He is our only access to true and eternal life.

Therefore, using Lent better to relate to Jesus is worth every effort. †

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