Second Sunday of Lent (C):
On Feb 10, 2010, CNN iReport conveyed an article about a wealthy man. It said: Karl Rabeder grew up poor and thought that life would be wonderful if he had money. But when he got rich, Karl discovered that he was unhappy…. so he decided to give away every penny of his £3 million fortune: “…“Money is counterproductive – it prevents happiness to come.”…. His entire proceeds are going to charities he set up in Central and Latin America…. “For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness,” he said. “I come from a very poor family where the rules were to work more to achieve more material things, and I applied this for many years,” said Mr Rabeder…. “I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need. I have the feeling that there are lots of people doing the same thing” (By Alex in Money & Finance, http://neatorama.cachefly.net/money-happiness.htm).
Yes, money, power and fame, when used selfishly, hinder meaningful relationships. We heard in the Gospel last Sunday (the temptations the devil made on Christ) that life and religion would be fruitful and meaningful only in the Lord. Apart from the life and the ways with the Lord, our minds and hearts are obscured by various clouds of darkness:
1. Indifference and insensitivity. These can result from material sufficiency with disregard of the needy, as well as disregard of moral obligation to family and community.
2. Pride and arrogance. They can be lies disguised as truths and assertion of superiority over others, as well as conspicuous and blatant declaration of humility and modesty.
3. Envy and resentment. People who nurture these look only into themselves, overlook the blessings they have received and are not grateful for the blessings that others have.
At the Transfiguration of our Lord, God proclaims His mandate to listen to His Chosen One, Jesus, our only way to the Father. From situations that cloud our minds and hearts, God is telling us to listen to His Son, so that we can transform every situation into a situation of faith and hope. Moses and Elijah were prophets who constantly listened to God, and they had great qualities in common:
1. Both had great compassion for their people and the ability to aggressively proclaim God’s words because of their undying zeal;
2. Both had the ability to face and accept their weaknesses because of their humility;
3. Both had great trust in God because they listened to Him. While Moses and Elijah talked about listening to God and belonging to Him only, St. Paul likewise urged the Philippians to imitate him on account of Jesus, for their citizenship is in Heaven.
Here on earth we are citizens of countries with borders. We include only those of our kind and those we approve of to enter our gates. We exclude those who are not of our kind, and lock them out. In eternity there is only one border, the one that excludes the unfaithful. The faithful will be in God’s Kingdom and they are of one kind: children of the Father. In hell, everyone is of different kind, because there, hatred is the order of the day.
The Transfiguration of the Lord teaches us to go beyond the figures of this world. We need to move beyond the idolatry of the belly, the body and worldly pleasures so that we can truly listen to God and become His children. We have to go beyond feelings of anger, envy and rejection, for they do not do justice to the generosity of God. We have to move beyond the idolatry of worldly power and fame, for within and among us is the Kingdom of God, and God is greater than anything that we can ever desire.
Yes, we will continue to be tempted by the devil, for Jesus has joined us into His Body. He made us realize that our glory will be in listening to Him and living out His commands. St. Augustine said: “He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan…. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered insults in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you” (Commentary on the Psalms, Liturgy of the Hours, 1st Sunday of Lent, Vol.II).
In Gethsemani, Jesus pleaded with His disciples to watch one hour with Him. We need an urgent paradigm shift and meaningful Lenten resolution: to listen to Jesus at all times, to watch with Him in prayer by learning to be silent in this noisy world, to watch with Him in fasting from situations that cloud our hearts and make us unhappy, and to watch with Him in almsgiving by avoiding unnecessary waste and spending on account of the needy. Then the celebration of the Eucharist will be more meaningful for us, and will bear fruit for eternal life.