God is with us in good times and in times of suffering. Redemption leads through the Cross – for Christ and for us; for the Redeemer and the redeemed.

I love conversion stories, and Abram’s is no exception. His great desire it seems was to have children, but he and his wife were old. He desired meaning and purpose. Most people desire meaning, purpose and fulfillment in their lives. What is it you desire? Are you looking for something more? Have you given your life to Jesus in trustful surrender?

Each year, Transfiguration Sunday, begins the second full week in Lent, and encourages us all to focus on loving and trusting the Lord and surrendering our hearts to him more fully.

Trustful surrender to the Lord is key! Giving one’s heart to Jesus is not always easy, but it is simple. For us, today:

  • Surrender begins with the realization that Jesus loves us and will always be with us.
  • Surrender grows with the realization that Jesus is God… the Divine Son through whom we were created and are sustained in life.
  • Surrender is strengthened particularly by God’s grace when we live the sacramental life of the Church.
  • Surrender means saying yes to what the Lord asks of us and trusting that He always has our best interests in mind.

Over 3,500 years ago, Abraham trusted the Lord and surrendered to His will. Place yourself in the story. Abram hears the Lord God speak to him. Abram’s parents were pagans who worshiped false gods. Indeed, there is no evidence that Abram even knew of this One, True God who told him to leave home.

Here was a man who had grown up in a major city (Ur) of the ancient world. Ur was a river city near the major gulf in Mesopotamia. For comparison, think of New Orleans! Abram’s father moved the family, including Abram, Sarai, and Lot, to Haran where they settled. Maybe think of Memphis! Some later time, Abram’s dad died.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

–Genesis 12:1-3

We are told that Abram was 75 years old when God told him to leave his home and go off into the great unknown. He promised that this 75-year-old man would be blessed with children and descendants blessed the world over.

Amazingly, Abram simply obeyed. What a great gift of faith Abram had to say yes. Through that faith and Abram’s obedient love, God formed His people during the coming period of the Patriarchs, a Holy Tribe who would later become a Holy Nation through Moses, a Holy National Kingdom through David, and a Holy Catholic Church through His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

All of this because Abram cut the ties to his past and trusted in the promises of God to make a new life. Out of the old and into the new. Imagine if Abraham had said no? Because he said yes, today we are all spiritual descendants in faith of Abraham. Because of Abraham’s faith and his works (because true faith acts), we are gathered here in Mass on the Second Sunday of this Lenten season.

Abraham’s life was not easy or without hardship. Doing the Lord’s will is often difficult, maybe even bringing pain and loss, but the Glory of the Gospel awaits those who believe and act.

St. Paul tells Timothy in today’s second reading (2 Timothy 1) to “take your share of suffering for the gospel.” Our response to God should flow from our love of Him and one another. And in a broken world, such unconditional love always entails suffering because we are not yet perfected.

God’s plan to repair this brokenness was carried out through this series of covenants with His people.

When the time was full, God entered our history and became Man—the Incarnate Christ. There are two places in the Gospels where we hear the voice of God, the Father—the first is at the Baptism of the Lord and the second is at the Transfiguration, which we hear in today’s Gospel (Matthew 17). Also present at both events is the manifestation of the Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus, along with His closest disciples, Peter, James and John, climb up a mountain to pray and the disciples witness the Transfiguration of the Lord. They first see Jesus with Moses and Elijah. These latter two represent the entirety of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Their time has passed, and it is now the time of Jesus, the Son of God, who will mediate the New (and everlasting) Covenant. Through Jesus, the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled.

Peter, James, and John witness, for just a little while, the glory of Christ’s Divinity shine forth in His humanity. Abram saw God in the symbols of a cloud of smoke and fire, but, they see God, not in the symbol of a torch, but in His Incarnated person. God is no longer distant—He is near. Yet this is not the end. The cloud of glory that descends manifests both God the Holy Spirit and mystery of Redemption.

Just as we learned a on the conclusion of the Christmas season, that the Baptism of the Lord anticipates the Passion and Death of Christ on the Cross, so too does the Transfiguration. In our broken world, love will entail suffering… as Christ suffers, so too will we suffer.

God is with us in good times and in times of suffering. Redemption leads through the Cross—for Christ and for us; for the Redeemer and the redeemed.

Peter and the others were frightened. Peter likely wanted to preserve and extend this time of seeing God as He is. But Christ essentially said, Not yet, there is more to accomplish. Be strengthened and encouraged by what you’ve seen.

We should reflect on all that God wants to accomplish in us through Christ Jesus. We need to cast off our disordered attachments and instead love Him alone who satisfies. And love one another unconditionally, no matter the suffering that is sure to follow in this fallen world.

God desires to bring us out of our comfort, out of the old and into a new and glorious life through which His blessings flow.

Into the deep…

Image credit: Transfiguration (detail) by Raphael | Raphael, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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