Second Sunday of Lent
February 25, 2018
We began “Lent ‘18” with the shocking news of yet another test of faith. This test did not occur on a mountaintop, but rather on the campus of a high school in Florida. The test did not end with the unbinding of a child. In fact, it began when parents heard the news that the lives of their children had already been sacrificed. No angel came to stop the slaughter. Tests can be opportunities to demonstrate what we have learned from listening, contemplating, and conversing with others. Tests call us to commit to what we believe is true. When we successfully complete a test, we should feel more confident about what we know, who we are, and what we are capable of doing. But when we fail a test, it can break us.
And so we must pray for the parents, families, and “student survivors” of the unimaginable test that they are only just beginning.
Shock, horror, grief, anger, hatred, the desire for revenge are powerful bindings that can be next to impossible to break. The only effective way to be liberated from these life-threatening restraints is through faith…an intense, unconditional, and even extravagant faith like Abraham demonstrated on the mountaintop. Without faith, the lives of the parents and loved ones of those sacrificed might end up on the fire; a further sacrifice to a moment of insane violence.
The truth is, life is filled with faith-challenging tests. From the moment we are born, we begin the lifelong process of letting go of things we treasure. And there are countless ways in which we are bound by things that restrict the freedom which God intends us to enjoy.
The Ash Wednesday test that continues to unfold in Florida seems to push the boundaries of human endurance. But the reality is that day…like every day since the Original sin… people all over the world faced equally severe tests that were unreported. This is the fact that makes it so very important that we hold close to us the ultimate test that Jesus endured.
And so we look from the mountaintop of our First Reading to the mountaintop of the Transfiguration. It was there that Jesus prepared for the ultimate test: the Paschal Mystery. By listening, contemplating, and conversing with Moses and Elijah, Jesus made the commitment to permit Himself to be bound over to face the brutality of Rome. With the help of Moses and Elijah, the Lord left that mountaintop experience confident of what He knew, Who He was, and what God was asking Him to do.
And when the “Good Friday survivors” were bound tight by the horror of Jesus’s public execution, the memory of The Transfiguration must have enabled them to liberate themselves so that they would be free to embrace The Risen Christ on Easter morning.
How are you being tested? Does your personal test seem beyond your personal endurance? Will you let the test break you? Look to the mountaintop to recall who you are…a much loved child of God…one who God will not permit to be sacrificed.