2nd Sunday of Lent | Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Luke 9:28-36
Are you the type of person who sees the a glass as half empty or as half full? I have to admit that often I can be “glass half empty” kind of person. Although we usually cannot control whether we are naturally a more optimistic or pessimistic type of person, we all want to develop a more hopeful perspective on life. Hope is, after all, a virtue. It is important to be able to hope that, in the end, God is taking care of us and that all will turn out well. Having this hope can sometimes be tough because of setbacks in our health, relationships or job. It can be hard to be hopeful when we see the negative news of hatred, oppression and violence. Being hopeful can be hard. Today’s readings remind us of two truths that can help us to be more hopeful.
Truth #1: God will never turn his back on us.In the first reading, we heard about the famous covenant that God makes with Abraham in Genesis 15. This reading – particularly the part about cutting up all those animals – can seem strange and difficult to comprehend. To make sense of this reading, it is important to understand something about how covenants were made at this time. Today, when two parties get together to make a contract, each party commits to a list of points that they will uphold. The contract is then formalized by some kind of ceremony, for example, a piece of paper is signed. In the Ancient Near East, a similar process was followed in making a covenant. First, each party would promise to do something. Second, there was a ceremony to ratify the covenant. Instead of signing a piece of paper, the two parties would split an animal in two parts and then each party would walk through the animal. This was highly symbolic. By walking through the carcass, each party would, in essence, be declaring to the other “let me be like this torn apart animal if I break my side of the agreement”. With this in mind, the significance of the covenant of God with Abraham comes into clearer view. In particular, we see that the covenant is unidirectional. Only God promises something to Abraham (land and descendants). Only God, in the form of a flame, passes through the carcasses. Abraham promises nothing and does not pass through the animals. The unidirectional nature of this covenant, which is one of the foundational covenants in the Old Testament is highly significant. It shows us that regardless of what we human beings do, God will never abandon us. He will always and forever be faithful. Considering this is a source of hope.sourceTruth #2: Jesus has given us a glimpse of the ending and it’s a happy one!In the Gospel today, we heard the account of the Transfiguration in the Gospel of Luke (9:28-36). The Transfiguration can be understood as a kind of preview to Jesus’ resurrection. The event comes at a critical juncture in the Gospel as Jesus begins his long journey towards Jerusalem where he will suffer and die. The Transfiguration is meant to strengthen Jesus and his followers as they begin this journey of suffering. The Transfiguration is a glimpse of the end of the story: the glorious Resurrection of Jesus. A preview to how the story ends is meant to provide hope in the darkness of Jesus’ passion and death. It is similar to some hikes I have been on. Sometimes, in a tiring hike up a steep mountain, there will be a viewpoint along the way. At this viewpoint, you can catch a glimpse of how great the vista will be at the end of the hike. This preview of the end gives encouragement to continue trudging up the mountain! In our lives, God gives us some moments of Transfiguration. These are times when we can experience in a special way the love and goodness of God. This might happen at a time of retreat, at Mass, when we are in nature or when we are celebrating with family and friends. Just like the Transfiguration is a preview to the Resurrection, these moments in our life are previews to the goodness that lies in store for us. Especially when times are difficult, it is important to remember these transfiguration moments in our life. Considering these can be a source of hope.