Mass Readings: Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18

The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

He then said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.” “O Lord GOD,” he asked, “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Abram brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.

When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14

  1. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
    The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom should I fear?
    The LORD is my life’s refuge;
    of whom should I be afraid?
    R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
    Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
    have pity on me, and answer me.
    Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
    R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
    Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
    Hide not your face from me;
    do not in anger repel your servant.
    You are my helper: cast me not off.
    R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
    I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
    Wait for the LORD with courage;
    be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
    R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Reading 2 Philippians 3:17—4:1

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 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.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.
Gospel Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Comments:

People don’t change. The same basic choices and modes of living were the same in the first century as they are in the twenty-first. Only the surface of life changes as customs, opportunities, and world circumstances shift and metamorphose. Technology doesn’t change us, it only gives us new opportunities to reveal what is within our hearts. As far as that goes, nothing has changed.

I mention this because this week’s second reading sounded to me as if it could have been written today: as if St. Paul were an uncompromising blogger commenting on the state of western civilization as we careen ever more wildly to our destruction. I can just imagine him receiving the usual vitriol on Facebook or Twitter from social justice bullies lay into him for daring to say such things, leavened with the usual pious platitudes about how he’d catch more flies with honey, etc.

It doesn’t take much effort to apply these words to our world, where many “conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The government uses insurance mandates to crackdown on nuns. New laws come into place forbidding Christians from practicing their faith in public or in their professional lives. Christians are almost universally reviled and mocked on television. Don’t believe me? Name the last positively portrayed, faithful Christian character on a mainstream television network. The only example I can think of is Daredevil, and he was on a Netflix miniseries. Now compare that to the number of positively portrayed homosexuals. Then consider that Christians make up roughly seventy-five percent of the population and homosexuals, at best, five percent. If Christians do appear, whether in television or the movies, they’ll generally be self-righteous assholes at best, fanatical monsters at worst.

Speaking of which, how about “their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’” Sound familiar, anyone? Substitute ‘stomach’ with ‘loins’ (considering stomach here refers to appetite, that isn’t really a liberty) and I think you have a pretty fair portrayal of the modern secular world, which seems to me to be largely governed by appetite, specifically the desire for orgasms. Or, to allow a bit more dignity to it, to a desire for ‘self-realization’ or ‘self-discovery’ or some other selfish end or another (which typically amounts to the same thing). And doesn’t it take pride in this very fact? Hell, just think of ‘Gay Pride:’ the effort to claim your perversion as a badge of honor, or ‘slut walks’ where women take pride in their own degradation, or the hook-up culture and the macho pride of men in their ability to get women to sleep with them.

A large segment of our culture buys into this whole worldview, which worships appetite and glories in its indulgence. This includes many Christians. That’s no surprise: the spirit of the age is an infectious disease and it always affects a large majority of the Church to a greater or lesser degree. But St. Paul reminds us that we ought to resist this infection and rather conform our lives to Christ and to the Saints. “Join with others in being imitators of me…and observe those who thus conduct themselves.” The reality of being a Christian is that we are always, to one extent or another, at war with the world around us. Even in what we think of as the most Christian ages, those who sought to truly live their faith encountered resistance and persecution from those whose “minds were occupied with earthly things.” Again, the basic nature of human lives, and the choices we make, whether to focus on earthly things and to worship our own desires, or to seek for greater things and worship God, have never and will never change.

It is and always has been our duty to resist the temptation to join in with the spirit of the age and rather to strive for virtue and sanctity in our lives. And therefore, in this way let us stand firm in the Lord.

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