2d Sunday of Lent
Feb. 24, 2013
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.
“Nourish us inwardly by your word, that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory” (Collect).
|The Transfiguration by Bellini, 1487|
We pray that the word of God might nourish us inwardly. We all believe that God’s word, the Sacred Scriptures, possesses a special power to feed our souls with divine truth; to transform and build us up, not physically but spiritually; to imprint something of the divine image in our hearts.
The word is so important that we read it in all our liturgies; this was one of the most important liturgical reforms of the 2d Vatican Council. We’re encouraged to read a portion of it even in Penance, tho we usually don’t—old habits being so hard to die.
If God were to hear our prayer that his word should nourish us inwardly, what might happen? We’d make time to read and meditate upon the Scriptures. Isn’t it obvious that his word will have an inward effect upon us only if we read it or listen to it? if we give it a chance to sink in, to take root, like the seed that the sower scattered so prodigally in Jesus’ parable?
Of course, we have to allow the word to sink in—not to be shallow ground for it, not to choke it off with distractions and a thousand mundane concerns. We’d have to take the word seriously and apply it to ourselves: to our lives, our families, our community, our ministry.
During Lent we might resolve to do more reading and reflecting upon the Scriptures, perhaps to make them an ongoing part of our daily spiritual life. We who pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day have a leg up on that score, but we might ask ourselves whether we’re truly attentive as we pray the Hours, or do we just rush thru them mechanically, thoughtlessly? Could we take a piece of the Hours—a psalm, a reading—and pray with it privately? Or ought we to do additional Scripture reading on our own?
There’s another profound sense in which God’s word nourishes us. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and he is our spiritual food in the Eucharist. During Lent, catechumens are in their final preparation for the sacraments of initiation; so it’s very fitting that the whole Church pray with them that they may be nourished with God’s Living and Eternal Word in the Eucharist. Of course, we “veteran” Catholics need that same nourishment. We need to be so fed by Jesus our Lord that we’re transformed in our words and actions into his very image—Christ within us showing outwardly.
We who celebrate the Eucharist daily probably could be more attentive to what we’re doing, less distracted. I could, for sure. Those who don’t come to Mass daily might add a weekday Mass or 2 to their Lenten practices each week.
In last week’s gospel, we heard how the Devil tempted Jesus to turn a stone into bread; Jesus rejected the temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy (8:3): “Man doesn’t live by bread alone” (Luke 4:3-4). Matthew’s version of the temptation (4:4) completes the verse that Jesus cites: “not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Our familiarity with the word of God gives us guidance for our lives. Being rooted in the word of God, we’re strengthened to resist temptations, including subtle ones like the one that was laid before Jesus.
We can see here the aptness of the double metaphor of our opening prayer. God’s word strengthens Jesus—and us—to resist temptation. As Wonder bread used to build strong bodies 12 ways, the nourishing sacred word builds strong souls (in multiple ways).
The word also enlightens us that we might recognize temptation for what it is. Doesn’t temptation, very often, present itself in the guise of something good? The word enlightens us that we might might discern what is the true path for us: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path,” one of the psalms tells us (119:105). Don’t we often talk ourselves into some failing, some sin, arguing its benefits? So our “spiritual sight” needs to be “made pure” by God’s word, that word which, as Hebrews assures us, “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12).
As we look tonite at the example of the 3 select apostles who witness the transfiguration of Jesus, who hear his dialog with Moses and Elijah about “his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31), who are commanded to “listen to him” (9:35)—and who still fall short in numerous ways before, during, and even after the Lord’s passion and resurrection—their example reminds us that this nourishment and purification by God’s word (the written word, the proclaimed word, the Eucharistic Word) is a long, long process of conversion for us; a process that involves not one Lent but many Lents; not one celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation but many; not one resolution to live closer to Jesus but renewed resolutions.
So we take courage to continue our own “exodus” of discipleship with Jesus, the Word of God, until “the Lord Jesus Christ changes our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” and our discipleship reaches its perfection “in heaven” (Phil 3:20-21), until we “behold God’s glory” (Collect).