Sunday: Second Sunday of Lent. Date: March 12, 2017. Year: A The readings: [Gen. 12:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:8b-10; Mt. 17:1-9] The message: Called with a holy calling. Prepared by: Catholic Doors Ministry Total words: 1971
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Looking before me, what do I see? I see the children of the Lord gathered as a faith community to celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent. Our Christian gathering, one of thousands that are taking place today throughout the world, is a perfect example of how the grace of God is working through each and everyone of us to merge us as one Body.
Entering the second week of the Lenten Season, through its liturgical readings, the Catholic Church reminds us of the baptismal promise that opened the door to our Sacramental journey for the glory of God and the sanctification of our souls.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Genesis [Gen. 12:1-4] involved the Divine calling of Abraham to become the spiritual father of the people of God. The appearance of Abraham in history marked a new era. In the seventy-fifth year [Gen. 12:4] of Abraham, God intervened in the course of history, reshaping its future to embrace His Divine Plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Lord called Abram to take his relatives and to depart from his country and his father's house. From there, all would journey to the land that the Lord would show them through Abram. [Gen. 12:1]
From this biblical passage, we learn that Abram did not take the initiation to communicate with God or to seek His blessings. Rather, it was Yahweh who made the first initiation. Equally, when we were called to become Christians in the living faith, it was not by our own initiation. Rather, it was the grace of God that was manifested in us first. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us..." [1 Jn. 4:10]
The fiat of Abram embraced two commands. First, he was required to completely disassociate himself from his pagan past. Secondly, he was required to migrate to a land of God's choice. Equally, when we accepted Christ in our lives through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, we were called to detach ourselves from our past. "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" [2 Cor. 5:17] And our migration is our spiritual journey in the Sacramental life of the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit that is manifested in us, we are sanctified in order to become worthy children of God who will dwell in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
God promised Abram, that of him, He would make a great nation, that He would bless him and make great his name so that Abram would be a blessing to many. [Gen. 12:2] As we learn from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, in Abraham was fulfilled the promise that he would become the father of many nations. [Rom. 4:17-8] Abraham was the first of many to be made righteous not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. [Rom. 4:13]
The Lord God said to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." [Gen. 12:3] Without the fiat of Abraham, salvation would not have come to us. Having been blessed by the free grace of the Heavenly Father, the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we owe our gratitude to our spiritual father, Abraham. The reward of Divine blessings that Abraham received, we too have received it. May God be praised forever!
Responding to the call of the Lord, at age seventy-five, Abraham and his relatives departed from Haran. [Gen. 12:4] Abraham did not say, "Oh Lord, can it wait until tomorrow, I am tired." Nor did he say, "Lord, I am too old to start walking blindly, not knowing where you are going to guide me." As the Virgin Mary gave her fiat unconditionally to the angel of the Lord, Abraham gave his fiat unconditionally to Yahweh. These models of perfect fiats remind us that we should not delay our commitment to accept Christ in our lives. We should not delay our admission into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. Nor should we delay our obligation to receive the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist on a regular basis to maintain our righteousness before God. For we know not the moment when the breath of life will be taken from us in this world.
Today's Second Reading from the Second Letter of Timothy [2 Tim. 1:8b-10] is a reminder that God calls each and everyone of us. God wants us to become holy, reminding us that we have received our life and immortality through the Gospel. Therefore, we are called to "Join... in suffering for the gospel..." [2 Tim. 1:8b]
When we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, having been perfectly bound to the Church and enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit, as true witnesses, we became more strictly obligated to spread and defend the Catholic faith by our words and deed. (C.C.C. # 1285) And as our forefathers suffered for the Gospel, even Christ Himself, we are called to share in the sufferings of the Body of Christ. When suffering, we should share the words of St. Paul, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church." [Col. 1:24] (C.C.C. # 1508)
In our sufferings, we are called to rely on the power of God." [2 Tim. 1:8b] When Paul appealed to God about his suffering, the Lord answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." [2 Cor. 12:9] (C.C.C. # 1508) Following in the footsteps of St. Paul, we too should state, "So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." [2 Cor. 12:9-10] In other words, through physical sufferings, we are spiritually strengthened in our daily communion with Christ.
God's calling for us to be holy was not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. [2 Tim. 1:9] On this subject, I would like to quote the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians. "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." [Eph. 2:4-10]
"This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." [2 Tim. 1:9] In His foreknowledge of sin entering the world, the Lord God had planned to dispense His loving and merciful grace through the Lord Jesus. This was before the age of God's people when the Law had been given to mankind, before the age that covered from Adam to Moses, and even before the age of Adam in the Garden Eden.
But now, through the incarnation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, death has been abolished, life and immortality has been brought to light through the Gospel. [2 Tim. 1:10] "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, sot that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham." [Heb. 2:14-6]
During today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 17:1-9] we heard that in the company of Peter, James and his brother John, [Mt. 17:1] Jesus transfigured on a high mountain. What was the exact purpose of His transfiguration, three reasons can be given.
(1) First of all, when God spoke from Heaven, as He had spoken during the Baptism [Mt. 3:17] of Jesus, the sonship of Jesus was being revealed to those who were present.
(2) Secondly, when the face of Jesus shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white, the event may have testified to the fact that the Lord Jesus was the true Light which enlightens everyone. [Jn. 1:9, 8:12; Lk. 2:32]
(3) Thirdly, the transfiguration may have foreshadowed the eternal reign of Jesus as God and King in Heaven. The Book of Revelation tells us, "And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light..." [Rev. 22:5] "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." [1 Jn. 1:5]
When Moses and Elijah appeared, [Mt. 17:4] Peter must have recalled the brightness of the face of Moses on Mt. Sinai when He received the Ten Commandments. [Ex. 34:29-35] The request to make three tents alludes to the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast commemorates the sojourn of the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. It is believed Peter must have suspected that Jesus was about to receive the revelation of another Law. Moses and Elijah were symbolic figures, representing the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was not about to receive a new revelation; He was uniting the two, He being the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
While Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah, "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!'" [Mt. 17:5] The bright cloud is a symbol of the presence of God. In the Old Testament, we find a passage that states, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after." [Ex. 19:9, 24:15-6]
When the supernatural event was finally over, Jesus and His disciples went down the mountain. While doing so, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." [Mt. 4:11] For it was not yet the time for the world to know and understand that Jesus was closing the age of the Law and the Prophets.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, today's three readings remind us that the Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so we may be saved through the grace and mercy of a loving God who never abandoned us to sin and death. Before we were created, the Lord God called us with a holy calling. [2 Tim. 1:8] Through Christ, He showed us the way, the truth and the life. [Jn. 14:6]
Instituted by Christ Himself, the Holy Catholic Church commands us to prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Easter that approaches. So we may be holy on that day as Jesus is holy, we are called to repent of our sins and receive the Sacrament of Confession. Then, having been made righteous in Christ, the Lord God will no longer remember our sins. And having been raised to a state of holiness, we will all qualify to join together in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday.
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[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]
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"The Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him." [Gen. 12:1-4]
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"Brothers and sisters: Join with me in suffering for the Gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." [2 Tim. 1:8b-10]
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"Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!'
When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Get up and do not be afraid.' And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, 'Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.' [Mt. 17:1-9]
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