Saturday, March 3, 2012

Seeing Only Him

12th Century Icon of the Transfiguration
Readings for Sunday, March 4:
Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Psalm 116:10, 15-19
Romans 8:31-34
Mark 9:2-10

In this morning’s Advocate I read an interesting article about a priest, Fr. Gregory Boyle, who ministers among gang members and works to end violence through education and involvement. One of the things that struck me in the article was a story that he tells in his book, Tattoos on the Heart. The father of one of his priest friends fell ill toward the end of his life and the son had to step into the role of caregiver. He spoke of the many ways that he cared for his father, including reading books to him. He noted when the son read those books, the father, despite his illness, never fell asleep. Rather, he simply stared at his son and smiled. This simple story, for Fr. Boyle, was the story of God’s love for us – a love that simply gazes at us at every moment and rejoices that we are His beloved Sons and Daughters.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, every single one of us must admit that while the Father is constantly gazing at us with eyes full of love and joy, we often turn our eyes away to other things and begin to let them have pride of place in our hearts. We sin and stray from God’s love.

Life would be much easier if we didn’t have to worry about that tendency of our heart to turn toward evil things, known as concupiscence. But the reality is that it is part of our fallen nature now and so we take up the fight to sanctify these desires. In this season of Lent we intensify those activities which we are called to do year-round. We pray and fast more fervently, give of our time and talents more freely, and endure bodily and spiritual suffering more willingly all so that we might be more faithful to the God Who is ever-faithful to us. As we journey through this season, it’s supposed to be tough. We’re supposed to be uncomfortable. As Our Holy Father so beautifully put it in his first days as Pope: “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!” My brothers and sisters, we are called to greatness. We are called to be saints, joyful lights shining a world of darkness. But we have to fight for that to happen.

To have the courage to continue in that fight today, we turn to the scriptures. As we hear the account of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, we see that Mother Church is coming to the aid of her children. She recognizes that as we journey in this spiritual desert for forty days we must have an extra nudge every so often - and we find that little nudge today in this passage wherein the glory of the Lord is revealed. It was to strengthen the faith of those three great Apostles that the Lord showed His glory, so that when the persecution came and He was crucified they might not turn away but would remain faithful. In the same way, as we find ourselves in the midst of temptations or trials during this season, the Lord encourages us also to be mindful that He is the Beloved Son of God; He is the Christ. And if we are faithful and persevere in our trials, we will not only behold His glory, but will also have a share in that glory in Heaven. His glory helps to sustain us, also, because we recognize that the Father was faithful to His own beloved Son, pouring out many blessings on Him, and we are assured that He desires to do the same with us.

And so as we continue in this journey, we pray for the grace to continue to repent of sin and be faithful to the Gospel of Christ, and beg the Lord that we might always have the grace to be like the Apostles on the great mountain of the Transfiguration and see nothing but Him alone.