2nd Sunday of Lent 2019 (readings)
Today’s second reading is a great reminder of our ultimate goal as Christians, as Catholics; that goal is heaven. It’s also a great reminder of our dual citizenship. By our birth, we are made citizens of whatever country we’re born in, but by our baptism we are made citizens of heaven.
And it’s by this very fact of our second citizenship that we are called to live a life of joy and full of hope, as is fitting for children of God.
The Transfiguration in the Gospel today points the way to the Cross of Jesus Christ. It shows us the end for which we’re made: life with God and the resurrection of the dead.
Christ’s resurrection is the cause of our own resurrection, for “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:20–21).
An essential prerequisite for attaining resurrection in glory is the effort to identify with Christ, in both joy and suffering, in both life and death. Because, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:11–12).
If we make the effort that fidelity requires, he will take our body, which is weak and subject to illness, death and decay, and transform it into a glorious body.
Now, the way marked for us is not easy. It requires suffering, penance, and most of all love. And as St Thomas Aquinas tells us, “For a person to go straight along the road, he must have some knowledge of the end—just like how an archer will not shoot an arrow straight unless he first sees the target […]. This is particularly necessary if the road is hard and rough, the going heavy, and the end delightful” (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 3, 45, 1).
We know our target, we know our goal. We know of the resurrection, but we also know that before we get there, we must embrace the Cross; just as Christ did. But it’s important to remember that suffering, though we must endure it, is not a good in itself. In fact, one of our duties as children of God with citizenship in heaven, is to alleviate the suffering we see around us. Poverty, illness, and death surround us as a mere fact of our existence.
And as today’s responsorial psalm teaches, nearness to Christ is a comfort to those who suffer. Likewise, nearness to us and to our aid could be the balm that those suffering around us receive. So, we must ask ourselves, how can I alleviate the crosses of those around me?
It could be as easy as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captive, or burying the dead.
My brothers and sisters, our true homeland is heaven, won by the victory of the Cross; if we wish to ever put our heavenly citizenship to use, we must strive to get there; we must embrace the Cross, embrace our suffering, and help alleviate the suffering of others; all with joy and with hope in the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
To end, I leave you with a quote from St John of the Cross: “The road is narrow. He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the Cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”