Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Lent - March 16, 2014 - Year A
And when they lifted their eyes,
they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:8)
Light for a Pilgrim
It may come as a surprise to some! But this world is not our home. No matter how enamored we are of this 'place,' this season of time is not our destination. I'm reminded of a catchy tune we sang with some gusto in my Pentecostal childhood. It goes like this in part:
This world is not my home I'm just a-passin' through;
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door;
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore!
The lyrics of this song speak about another time and place that has the welcome sign out. It's A Forever Embrace where the welcome is as deep and wide as the love of God.
In Abraham's calling to leave home and kindred he's leaving everything he knows; everything familiar to him is in the rear view mirror. In Christian terms it is known as a pilgrimage of faith. God filled his calling to Abraham with the promise of a land, that is, a place to call home, a legacy of faith, and a mission to be a blessing.
My journey of faith began in an old fashioned Pentecostal church. It seems I can still hear wafting through the mystical air of yesteryear the singing that is unbound by time: "I love to hear that old time preachin', prayin', singin', shoutin'; I love that old time readin' of God's words.'" And how we did. Little did I know when I was cutting my spiritual teeth on good Holy Ghost anointed preaching and prayer how God would lead me on an arduous and sometimes perplexing journey in my faith.
My spiritual journey began at 9 years of age at a Pentecostal altar praying through tears asking God to save me. I encountered the living Christ; the forgiving Christ! At the age of 13 I had a spiritual dream. In that dream I received God's call to preach his Gospel. At about the time I turned 20, deep questions began to formulate in my heart and thinking. Early in our marriage I began to leave the safety of my Pentecostal surroundings and found myself pastoring in Methodist churches and going to College and through Distance Learning, I earned a BA in Theology. Then not long after turning 42 I was ordained a priest, October 30, 1997, in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. I thought my journey was complete. Surely I had found the place of God's choosing after wandering through varying religious and faith traditions! Then the unthinkable happened. After serving almost 8 years as a priest in the CEC I found myself professing the fulness of faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, April 15, 2006.
Living in the light we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Anything less is stagnation and inertia. When the living water of the Holy Spirit is no longer a mighty river in our lives we become earthbound and worldly, lacking spiritual energy to be a true pilgrim. Then we forget the promise of our pilgrimage is to reach an eternal city, the New Jerusalem, the City of the Living God. For here we have no continuing city, but like Abraham, we are called to seek the one to come! These 40 days of Lent are days to remember our calling as pilgrims to walk daily in the light of gracious and holy promises.
Persevering in the Light of Easter
The way is not always easy. There may be trials not of our choosing. We may find ourselves in uncomfortable circumstances from time to time. Not everyone will embrace our convictions of heart and soul. To some, the Gospel will be foolishness and those who embrace it regarded as fools. Paul understood these realities. But he did not address these realities from a defeated and abandoned frame of mind.
Paul tells us today in the second reading to embrace any suffering for the sake of the Gospel with God's power. Through his mercy God has shed his grace upon us in the waters of baptism. It is his salvation we embrace and the holy calling to be his light and witness. None of this is through any virtue of our own, but it is by the grace given us through Christ Jesus ages ago. The phrase, 'ages ago,' is fascinating. It means that before creation, within the counsel of the thrice holy God, the plan of salvation was known; the riches of grace and truth have always been; Easter is forever! And when Christ appeared he brought life and immortality to light through his Gospel. In his own body he abolished death. In our Lenten journey we learn how to persevere through our trials and temptations by embracing the brilliance and strength of Easter Light.
Jesus, the Only Light
It is fair to ask, "Who lights up your life?" A special someone in your life no doubt. Or something special hidden within your aging memory that grows richer and brighter with every passing year and brings a smile to your face. Special people, and special moments, and special thoughts fill our lives leaving them bright and fuller.
But there is someone more special than all of the specialness we can imagine. That someone is Jesus, the Light of the world. Emanating from him that day on the Mount of Transfiguration was uncreated light. His face shone like the sun. The best way to understand this is that our Lord's face was brilliantly light itself. As was his whole person. Even his garments were affected and became 'white like light.'
Our calling, my friend, this Lenten season, is to make living in Christ, who is Light itself, more real, with more commitment and depth. In this season of deeper self denial we will find Christ. Let us seek the Lenten Light - encountering Christ who will heal our hearts and renew our vision - so that when we reach the holy vigil of Easter and lift our eyes we may like Peter, James, and John, see Jesus; only Jesus!
Shine, Jesus shine! Shine on me, in me, and through me, I pray. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com