Second Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2016
Next Sunday is the 88th Academy Awards. I doubt I’ll be watching. One of the motion pictures nominated in several categories is called “The Martian.” doubt I’ll see it, although I did read the book. I don’t need to issue a “spoiler alert” because it’s pretty much common knowledge that the story is about an astronaut marooned on Mars. As I read the book, I had an overwhelming sense of, and appreciation for, the distance that separated this lone explorer from his home on Earth. But the distance became less of an issue for “the Martian” at those times he was able to communicate with the scientists and engineers at NASA.
In a way, this movie offers a sense of how Jesus must have felt. Like an astronaut exploring another planet, The Lord found Himself in “another world.” The distance between The Kingdom of God and Earth must have been overwhelming to His Divine nature. That sense of separation from His Heavenly home would have been particularly intense when He was faced with things so alien to Him…things like hatred, greed, anger, arrogance, prejudice, corruption, and raw ambition. For a lesser heavenly visitor, the atmosphere of sin here on earth would have been as toxic to the Lord as the lack of oxygen was to the astronaut on Mars. Jesus survived…that is, until He gave up His life here…so that someday…we might live in The Kingdom.
And, of course, there was the issue of communicating with The Father. Jesus typically resolved the communication issue by going off to a deserted place…alone…and praying…by Himself, except on the occasion reported in this week’s Gospel, when He took three companions. And, almost as if He wanted to eliminate all possibility of interference or distraction…He led them up a high mountain. There, through His Transfiguration, The Lord all but closed the gap between heaven and earth; establishing visual as well as verbal communication with Moses and Elijah. The connection was so perfect that Peter, James, and John gave witness to it.
This foretaste of Resurrection also reminds us of the power we have to establish communication with God’s Kingdom through prayer. John Paul ll once wrote: We need to reaffirm our need for intense, humble, confident, and persevering prayer if the world is finally to become a dwelling place of peace.” The same holds true if we want to sustain a lasting sense of peace in our own hearts and minds. When we neglect our prayer life, we become like the astronaut stranded on Mars without means of communicating with Earth. Life without prayer is sentencing ourselves to solitary confinement in a foreign prison.
Lent is the time to make the journey up to the top of the mountain…above the toxic air we breathe each day…in order to improve or re-establish communications with The Source of all life, love, and peace.