Third Sunday of Lent (C)
In a video presentation in 2006, a Filipino painter, Joey Velasco, described his realizations in trying to paint the Last supper, not with the regular faces of men in robes, but with boys and girls, hungry, homeless and dirty, whom he encountered in the poor of society. At first it challenged him, but later he could no longer look at them because they stared at him, scrutinizing his soul. He said: “I thought they were mere linear figures I sketched. I realized they actually have life…. I see them every day, but I failed to notice them because they have become so ordinary in my sight. I also thought it’s nothing for them to be poor, because they have been used to it already. No. Not really. It is I who am used to their poverty.”
Joey described every character. One of them, Nene, practically lived in a public cemetery, cleaning tombs for a living. He said: “Her life is like a stray kitten. She loiters around and whimpers…. She’s just like a living dead. Am I just the same? Living dead?…. Do I give life to others? I gave her some teddy bears. She gave them all to her friends. She is more generous than me. She is more life-giving.”
Many of us exhibit the life of the proud and the indifferent. We exaggerate our personal worth, and we look down on others, who we think, are not worth recognizing. We also become impatient and critical, because we think we are always right. We actually kill in ourselves the beauty and the glory of God in people, and establish enmity between us and those whom we have judged. St. Paul tells us of the Israelites who had God’s protection and yet complained: “God was not pleased with most of them…. These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things…. Let us not test Christ as some of them did, and suffered death by serpents. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer…. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1Cor 10:5-12).
It is rightly said that actions speak louder than words. It is also true that we can do more damage when we don’t say or do anything about a sensitive issue or situation. When children go in fits of temper, and nothing is said about it, children think it’s all right. When things are stolen in an office or at home and nothing is said or done about it, people think it’s all right to get things without permission. In a family where waste of food is not addressed, children think that wasting food is not bad at all. Where abortion and artificial contraception are rampant, and nothing is done against their legalization, people think these are all right. When we commit sin and we tell ourselves that it’s all right, we begin to think that we can go unnoticed and unpunished by God, then our sins pile up on us and we become callous and insensitive to the Spirit of God.
On the first Sunday of Lent, we reflected on the ways Jesus triumphed over temptations. It was not for Himself that He overcame the devil, but for us. He has joined us into His Body, the Church, so that we can be strong in the face of temptations, and that we won’t keep our eyes merely on temporal and fleeting things, but on the Eternal Word of God. On the second Sunday of Lent, we reflected on the Transfiguration of Jesus. He showed us that beyond the figures of this world lies the glory of our citizenship.
Today’s readings show us that our transfiguration will start with repentance and recognition that we fail in the ways of the Lord. Our life has to bear fruits of the Spirit that is given to us at baptism, and strengthened in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Our catechism teaches us that “the fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us…. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity” (CCC 1832). Today’s readings also tell us of God’s patience and His desire to free us particularly from slavery to sin. The letter to the Romans tells us: “what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God” (8:14-16).
Let us again commit ourselves to follow Jesus, and to pray daily, for in praying we learn to be humble, and only the humble are worthy of Him. Let us also ask Him to free us from our slavery to worldly things and temporal desires that hinder us to accept Him in the Eucharist. Let us seek the grace of His mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we can persevere in hope, and remain watchful until He comes again.
Have a blessed and meaningful Lent. God bless you all.