Life & Soul Life and Soul

Second Sunday of Lent: Acknowledging our sin – and our dependence

A detail from The Transfiguration of Christ (1605), by Peter Paul Rubens

Second Sunday of Lent
Gen 15:5-12 & 17-18; Phil 3:17 – 4:1; Lk 9:28-36 (Year C)

“It is your face, O Lord, that I seek. Hide not your face. I am sure that I shall see the Lord’s face in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.”

The psalmist’s prayer is typical of the faith that sustained faithful Israelites as they undertook the arduous pilgrimage to Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. Such pilgrimages symbolised life’s journey into the presence of God. Lent is such a pilgrimage, and can be undertaken only with a faith that entrusts itself to a loving Father who invites us to share in the death and resurrection of his Son.

Such was the faith of Abram, who had been willing to abandon both home and security in obedience to God’s promise. He had been promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. The passing years had done little to bring the promise to fulfilment. Abram remained a stranger in a foreign land, his prayer echoing the vulnerability that so often stands between a promise and its fulfilment.

Our Lenten journey began with the vulnerability of the repentant sinner. With humility we acknowledged not only our sin, but also our total dependence on the mercy of a loving Father.

With Abram we live on that uncertain ground between promise and fulfilment. Abram journeyed on, sustained with the promise that bound him to his Lord. “That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram in these terms: to your descendants I give this land, from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.”

With Abram, we also journey in faith towards a promise whose ultimate fulfilment was to be achieved in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like Abram, and the Apostles who accompanied Jesus along his path, we are sustained in prayer with fleeting glimpses of what we shall become in him.

“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning.” The description of the Transfiguration struggles to express an experience that lies beyond words. Peter, rarely at a loss for words, could do no more than acknowledge the joy and fulfilment that he had experienced in the presence of his Lord. He longed to be held in that presence: “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here.”

St Paul assures us that, in Christ, we are held in that same presence. “From heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.