Lent is a time to see Jesus with new eyes

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It takes time to get to know a person. The longer we know a person the better we know that person. It took the apostles a long time to get to know Jesus and the longer they were with Jesus the better they got to know him. They got to know him better when he was transfigured on the mountain and they saw his divinity revealed. They would get to know him better again after this when Jesus revealed that he would suffer and die in Jerusalem even though they would not understand until later. They would get to know Jesus better again during the Last Supper, his agony in Gethsemane, his Passion, death and resurrection. The entire time the apostles were with Jesus they were getting to know him better and what following him as his apostles meant. It is the same for us. We also gradually grow in our love for and knowledge of Jesus and we also grow in understanding what Jesus is asking of us.

As Peter, James and John saw Jesus’ divinity revealed their attitudes to Jesus must have been transformed just as they saw Jesus was transformed. We could say that is what Lent is all about, transforming ourselves and our attitudes so that we can see Jesus more clearly. During this season of Lent we examine our lives to see where we stand before God and each other. The Collect (Alternative Opening Prayer) for Mass today expresses beautifully our hopes for Lent to our heavenly Father,

“Open our hearts to the voice of your Word
and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision.
Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son
who calls us to repentance and change of heart…”

On behalf of all I prayed that our hearts would be open, we be freed from darkness, and have our sight restored. It is really a prayer that we be transformed during Lent.

I think we can see this call to transformation also in the Scripture readings we heard proclaimed today. In the first reading Abram is promised the land by God (Gen 15:18). But when we move to the New Covenant we see that there is no emphasis at all on land. There is a new vision with the arrival of Jesus and all previous values have to be re-evaluated. Many times in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus said “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” (Matt 5) Instead of inheriting land in the New Testament the emphasis is on the kingdom of God. In the New Covenant the land to be inherited is heaven (Heb 11:16). Just as the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt and crossed the sea during the exodus to freedom, we were in sin and crossed the sea when we were baptized. The Hebrews wandered for forty years in the desert and then entered the Promised Land; we live here and then look forward to meeting God. So much of what happened in the Old Covenant is now seen as a sign or symbol to teach us about the spiritual life and our journey to God (see 1 Cor 10:6). Fighting for the land of Israel is something we see in the Old Testament. We have moved on now from thinking about a geographical territory and in the New Covenant the land to be concerned about is inheriting heaven (Heb 11:16). Lent is a time to see with new eyes.

In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians we also see a transformation. We are to look with new eyes. As well as being citizens of the United States you are above all citizens of heaven. Paul wrote,

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3:20-21)

Because our citizenship is in heaven, we look on the world with eyes of faith, and we see problems around us since the world does not always reflect God or who we are called to be. Therefore sometimes a Christian can feel like he or she is living in exile in his/her own country (perhaps especially in Europe which seems to be becoming anti-Christian.) That is because we are citizens of heaven. This is highlighted in a very public way every year during the March for Life in DC. Lent is a time when we evaluate our attitudes and try to take on more and more the attitudes of a citizen of heaven. Lent is a time to see with new eyes.

Paul also wrote that Jesus will transform our earthly bodies to be like Jesus’ glorified body (Phil 3:21). So we too hope to enjoy the glory that the three apostles saw when Jesus was transfigured. What we will be in the future is very different to what we are now. We see humanity portrayed in so many different ways on TV, in the movies and on the internet but do we ever see it portrayed as looking forward to a glorious future? In fact we only see a warped image of humanity on TV, in the movies and on the internet. The image of humanity that we see on TV and in the movies is, for the most part, not a reflection of who we are at all. Lent is a time to step back from false images to see who we really are before God. Who we really are is what Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body...” (Phil 3:20-21)

Therefore Paul advises the Philippians to observe those who already live as Christians (Phil 3:17). One form this could take for us is studying the lives of the saints and reading their writings. Once again our Opening Prayer to our heavenly Father was,

“Open our hearts to the voice of your Word
and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision.
Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son
who calls us to repentance and change of heart…”

In the Gospel the Father speaks to the three apostles, Peter, James and John and says, “This is my chosen Son, listen to him.” (Luke 9:35) That is what Lent is about, listening to Jesus. Are we giving God sufficient time to speak to us? Is the Lord asking something of us this Lent? If so let us follow the Father’s advice, “This is my chosen Son, listen to him.”

It took the apostles a long time to get to know Jesus and the longer they were with Jesus the better they got to know him. It is the same for us. We also gradually grow in our love for and knowledge of Jesus and we also grow in what in understanding what Jesus is asking of us.

“Open our hearts to the voice of your Word
and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision.
Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son
who calls us to repentance and change of heart…”

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Second Sunday of Lent Year C

We live by faith not sight but treasure experiences of God’s personal love

Jesus' Transfiguration - a Lesson in Prayer 2016

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Jesus’ Transfiguration and Overcoming Negativity

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