Apr232014
The work of DignityUSA on April 23, 2014 could have been sponsored by you. Click here for more information.

MARCH 20, 2011: SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

Readings: 

Genesis 12:l-4a
II Timothy l:8b-10
Matthew 17:1-9

Ever notice that no one in Scripture is ever called by God to stay exactly where he or she is, either geographically or psychologically? Today's Genesis pericope sets the pattern for all subsequent biblical calls.

Yahweh said to Abraham, "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you."

Though God promises several significant perks, nothing kicks in unless Abraham moves. That's why the sacred author ends this pericope with the comment, "Abraham went as Yahweh directed him."

Because all disciples of God have agreed to form a relationship with God, they're constantly "on the move." As we know from marriage, authentic relationships constantly change, grow and evolve. If they remained static, there'd be no need for vows in the marriage ceremony. We vow our commitment because we know we'll always be dealing with "new people." We're continually discovering new dimensions in our self and in the person we love. Relationships which don't change in response to those discoveries are dead. Chairman Mao was absolutely correct when he observed, "You can't swim in the same river twice."

This insight seems to be at the heart of Matthew's transfiguration passage. Peter, James and John are experiencing Jesus in a new way. "He was transfigured before them." Seeing him standing between Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the prophet, they now recognize him as being the fulfillment of all Scripture. (In Scripture, the Bible is simply referred to as "The Law and the Prophets.") Yet immediately after receiving this new insight about their mentor, "when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone." No matter where it leads them, their relationship with Jesus is the most important dimension of their lives.

The disciple of Paul responsible for II Timothy agrees. He or she reminds the community, "(God) saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design ...." In other words, by accepting Jesus' call, we're committing ourselves to live a life different from those around us; a life in which we're continually on the road Jesus asks us to travel. We have no fear of changing our perspectives on life because, like Abraham, we're always focused on the person who called us.

My grade school religion teachers often assured me that, as a Catholic, I belonged to the "true church." The knack of other Christian churches to change their rules and regulations through the centuries was one sign they were "illegitimate." We Catholics, of course, had never changed from the day Jesus "founded" us.

Those who taught such things certainly knew nothing of Scripture or Christian history. All students of the Christian Scriptures are familiar with two drastic changes in the first century alone. We quickly went from being a Jewish church to a Gentile church and from expecting Jesus' Second Coming in just a few years to presuming it wouldn't happen in our lifetime.

Those changes were just the beginning. One need only page through Charles Curran's 2003 book Change in Official Catholic Moral Teachings to learn how our church has continually moved from one moral position to another; always because of a deeper understanding of God and ourselves. Vatican II’s teaching on slavery, for instance, marked a complete turnabout from Pius IX's beliefs and teachings a century before. It took a drastic moral shift in the 16th century to permit us even to open a savings account. And all 20th century Catholics are well-aware of the church's about-face on democracy and religious freedom.

If we're not moving in our faith, we're certainly not responding to Jesus' call. We're guilty of giving ourselves over to an institution instead of to a person.