March 3, 2023

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. As its name implies, Genesis reveals the divine origin of life and the divine plan in the forming of the Hebrew people.

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 great pity that this marvelous book has been so tortured and misconstrued by well-meaning, but uninformed readers over the years. The message of Genesis is not about the details of how creation occurred.

This weekend’s reading is about Abraham. Considered by scholars to have been an actual person and not a myth, Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish people.

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

Abraham has a very strong faith. God rewards this faith by pledging that Abraham’s descendants, until the end of time, will be his special people. It is not a dignity conferred without obligation. Descendants of Abraham must be loyal to God and, by their lives of faith, 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, important in the formation of the Church. According to the New Testament, Timothy was the son of a pagan father and a devout Jewish mother. He was Paul’s secretary at one point and once was imprisoned with Paul, although eventually released. Tradition holds that Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus, then a major city, its present ruins on the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey.

Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in his Christian belief despite difficulties and obstacles.

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

In these Scriptures, brilliant light, mountaintops and pure white all symbolized God. Finally, on either side of Jesus were Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of the Hebrew religious tradition.

This scene utterly contrasts with that of Calvary. Instead of shimmering clothes, Jesus is crucified after being stripped of his garments. Instead of glowing clouds and brilliant light, darkness surrounds the cross.


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 and in dismay 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 believe and in our belief we must commit our lives to Christ. This is hard.

Abraham is critically a part of this weekend’s lesson as an example. He was firmly loyal to his faith in God regardless.

Nowhere in these readings is any account of the crucifixion, no reference to Calvary. Nevertheless, the event of the Lord’s death on the cross is essential to understanding fully this weekend’s message.

Calvary represents the world. It was seemingly for a moment the triumph of earthly power and human sin over good. Jesus died, but then came the wonder of Easter.

Every human being can be tricked into assuming that earthly things or earthly satisfaction will bring them reward. Instead of reward, sinning brings death. All around it is gloom.

So, the Church counsels us. Have faith, see beyond the gloom, rejoice in the light of Jesus. Remember the transfiguration, and remember Abraham, our model of absolute faith. Remember what truly matters in life. †

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