MARCH 12TH, 2017: SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
The LORD said to Abram:
"Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.
"I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you."
Abram went as the LORD directed him.
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him."
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
"Rise, and do not be afraid."
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
"Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Many of us falsely believe God only works through those individuals who’ve lived lives worthy of God working through them. We grew up believing in the non-biblical statement of St. Bonaventure: “Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit.” God is able to do it, it would be fitting if he did it, therefore he does it.
One of my grade school religion teachers once applied this reasoning to the Blessed Virgin. His reason for believing Mary was the most beautiful woman who ever existed was simple. Following Bonaventure he asked, “Couldn’t God create such a uniquely beautiful person? Doesn’t it make sense such a woman would be the mother of His Son? Therefore Mary was that most beautiful woman.”
Such reasoning might make sense to us, but as I mentioned above, it’s non-biblical. Going counter to Bonaventure, our sacred authors were convinced, “God could do it, it’d be fitting if he did it, but God almost never does what we expect him or her to do!”
This kind of theology especially kicks in when it comes to biblical “calls.” God never calls people to a special ministry because they’re the “holiest” persons in the room. They haven’t necessarily engaged in an ascetical lifestyle, gone to Mass frequently, never forgot their meal prayers or even said a daily rosary. The God we know from Scripture simply calls certain individuals without any reference to who they were or what they did before that call. Only what they do after the call is important. This is especially true of the very first biblical call – the one narrated in today’s Genesis reading – that of Abram.
The sacred author never tells us why Yahweh chooses Abram from the thousands of migrating people around him. Nor is there any mention of the kind of relationship the two had before the call. The significant thing is that the passage ends simply with the statement, “Abram went as Yahweh directed him.”
Yet notice what this resident of Ur agrees to do. He’s leaving all the security he’s ever known – his land, his kinsfolk, his father’s house – and sets out for a still-to-be determined country. Though Yahweh promises to one day make his family a “great nation” and his name a “blessing,” Abram can’t fall back on Yahweh’s track record. At this point there is none. Everything starts from here.
That’s the key to biblical calls: the person called is expected to put all her/his security in the one doing the calling. They’re expected to follow not an institution or a set of rules and regulations, but a person; to live their lives based on the whim of that special individual, no matter where it takes them.
The unknown author II Timothy takes that for granted when he reminds his community that the risen Jesus has also “called us to a holy life.” Though we believe the good news he proclaims about eventually destroying death and bringing us life and immortality, we’re only going to achieve those things by putting our security in Jesus right here and now.
I presume many of us, because of our past track records, don’t even notice the calls God frequently extends to us. If we actually did hear some of them, we’d probably take for granted they’re cases of mistaken identity. We forget that just as Jesus was “transfigured” by generously responding to his Father’s call, so our response would also transfigure us.
We can’t let our preconceived notions of how God should act stop us from seeing how God actually is acting, especially when that concerns our own lives. The only way we’re ever going to transfigure the earth is to first acknowledge how God and the risen Jesus have already transfigured us.