We’re two weeks into Lent.
How’s it going for you? Anything hard yet? Have you already given up?
I have to admit that I’ve discovered something about myself that I don’t really like to admit. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know this, but it is really being shown to me so far in Lent.
I don’t like to be uncomfortable. In any way. In fact, I’d say I’m pretty selfish. I want to eat what I want to eat, sleep when I want to sleep, drink what I want to drink. What I want, when I want.
I dare say that, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we would all admit this on some level. We love our comforts. Our comfort…our desire for comfort can be really detrimental to our progress in our walk with Christ. It can be detrimental because it can make us not “go there” with Jesus.
But going there is exactly what we are called to do. Participation in the life of Christ is exactly what we are called to do.
Our readings this week show us this:
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
I’m also going to bring in our Tract and Gradual as we go.
You might think, after reading the Gospel text for today that I’ve lost my mind. How is this text talking about us “going there” with Jesus? This is a well-known text for those familiar with Holy Scripture. This text is called “The Transfiguration.” In this story, we see Jesus taking Peter, James and John to the top of a high mountain “apart.” In other words, there was no one else around. Jesus was “transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.”
The disciples see Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah (signifying the Law and the Prophets). And Peter, being Peter, shoots his mouth off and says they should build three tabernacles. Peter is understandably overwhelmed by what he is seeing and experiencing. But, he’s also kind of missing the point. Peter sees the glory of Jesus and rightly wants to worship. But now is not the time. Other things must happen first. We’ll come back to this. And then they hear the voice of God, in the cloud of the glory of God (see Exodus 40:34-35, Isaiah 6:1-7, Ezekiel 1:26-28, Revelation 1:13-16) and they are afraid. Then the vision is gone, and Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about that until “the Son of man be risen from the dead.”
For a brief moment, the disciples shared in the glory of the Son of God. For a brief moment, they saw what Moses saw and asked for. For a moment, they saw what Isaiah and Ezekiel saw. They saw the glory of God. And it was mind blowing for them. For a moment, they participated in a foretaste of the glory to come. Our hope, indeed, the promise for us as those who are in Christ, is that we will one day participate in His heavenly glory. What a day that will be!
But that day is not now. This is what Peter was missing. Other things must happen first. Those things that must happen first involve suffering. Specifically, they involve the suffering of Christ. He must suffer many things (Luke 9:22, Luke 17:25, Mark 8:31). If He is to accomplish salvation, He must suffer those things.
And so must we. We must suffer with Him. It is not for us to have the heavenly glory without the earthly suffering. If Christ Himself had to suffer, so must we. This is what St. Paul is getting at in the Epistle for today.
We are to walk in a manner that pleases God. We are to abstain from the lusts of the flesh. And why? Why can’t we have these things?
Because our loving Father desires our sanctification. This is why the Psalmist tells us,
“The troubles of my heart are multiplied: deliver me from my necessities. See my abjection and my labour; and forgive me all my sins.” (Psalm 24:17-18)
Our suffering in this life mirrors the suffering of Christ. This is for our good, our sanctification. We are to participate in the life of Christ, again as the Psalmist reminds us,
“Alleluia. Give glory to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who shall declare the powers of the Lord? Who shall set forth all his praises? Blessed are they that keep judgement, and do justice at all times. Remember us, O Lord, in the favour of thy people: visit us with thy salvation.” (Psalm 105:1-4)
It is God’s mercy that allows us to participate in the life of Christ by “keeping judgment,” by doing what is right no matter what it costs us. Let us not forget what it cost Christ,
“For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
Let us not mistake this, brothers and sisters. We are indeed called to participate in the life of Christ. We are to do penance and “suffer” during Lent by denying our flesh, for the joy set before us of sanctification, for the joy set before us of Christ Himself.
And when our earthly suffering is over, we shall see Him face to face!
Of His Kingdom there will be no end and we shall walk in the light of His face to share in His eternal glory forever and ever.
Hold fast, dear brothers and sisters.
Our suffering now is light and momentary compared to the eternity of bliss that awaits those who are faithful to the call of Christ!
Hold fast to Christ!