2nd Sunday of Lent

Homily for March 17, 2019 (2nd Sunday of Lent)

Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36

St. John of the Cross wrote that “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he is traveling on, then he must close his eyes and travel in the dark.” 

That seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it?  In order to see and know where we’re going, most of us would prefer to have our eyes open and to have a little light! Many of us are scared of the dark.  There are many scripture passages where the prophets and Jesus urge us to step out of the darkness and walk in the light.  We tend to associate darkness with fear, violence and evil.

Yet we also know that darkness is also fact of life.  We experience night as well as day, sorrow as well as joy, suffering as well as peace, oppression as well as liberation, hate as well as love, death as well as life.  We know that we are sinners even as we strive to be saints.  Today’s scripture readings proclaim something that we sometimes forget:  God, our light, is also in the darkness. 

When God sealed his covenant with Abraham and his descendants, it was in the midst of “a deep, terrifying darkness.”  When God spoke to Peter, James and John after they witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, “a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.” But Abraham did not let the darkness overcome him.  The apostles still entered that cloud.

Lent is the season when we intentionally enter that same cloud.  This season reminds us that traveling on the road of conversion is not easy.  St. John of the Cross also wrote that “God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

That’s what Peter was tempted to do.  Just before the Transfiguration, he had confessed that Jesus was the Christ.  But when Jesus explained that his mission on earth included persecution, suffering and death, Peter objected.  Jesus then called him a “Satan” or adversary.  Jesus further explained that the cost of following him was bearing our crosses daily and following in his footsteps.  Peter and the other disciples became sad and frightened.  

When the Transfiguration showed Jesus in his glory with Moses and Elijah and as the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, Peter wanted to capture that moment forever.  Jesus said no.  They had to come down from the mountain.  They had to step back into the darkness.  But they did not need to be afraid.  They had the light.  It was in them.  It is in us, too.  That light—the light of Christ—makes us sure of the road we are traveling on. With that light we can close our eyes and travel in the dark.  We only need to turn it on.  +