If one were to read or hear today's readings from the Third Sunday in Lent with a critical ear or eye, one might arrive at an apparent contradiction. In the first reading from Genesis, God makes a covenant with Abram and promises to bestow upon him and his descendants a large tract of land as a perpetual heritage. In a subsequent covenant with Moses, God again promises to lead the Israelites into a "land flowing with milk and honey." In the book of Leviticus there are a number of laws laid down by God regarding the possession of the land and care for it (c.f., Lev. 25). Without a doubt, the land and this world figured prominently in the Jewish faith. In the second reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians, Paul declares to his readers that "our citizenship is in heaven." The apparent contradiction is this: how did the Judeo-Christian covenant, beginning with Abram, go from being a "land based" covenant to a "heaven based" covenant? Another, more practical way of posing the question might be "should we be committed to this world or to heaven?" To grapple with this difficulty, one must begin with the principle that "God does not go back on God's Word". Therefore, one must hold that the promises made to Abram are not annulled in the Christian covenant but, rather, reach their fulfillment. In looking for a key to "unlock" a possible answer to this dilemma, we need look no further than today's Gospel reading of the Transfiguration.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
2nd Sunday of Lent (Gen. 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil. 3:20-4:1; Lk. 9:28b-36): The "Transfiguring" Space Between
Prior to Jesus' Transfiguration on the mount in Luke, Jesus had been a virtual dynamo: preaching, teaching, healing, and constantly communing with the people who came to him or whom he encountered. There is no question that he was resolutely committed to persons of this world and the transformation of this world (hence, his proclamation that the Kingdom of God is "at hand"). However, in the transfiguration event, the prophets Moses and Elijah meet with Jesus and speak to him of his "exodus" or death. In other words, they reveal to Jesus how he is to depart this world. I know, I know, for some this is too much of a stretch! Some might be thinking, since Jesus is the "son of God" he already knew what was going to happen. However, Jesus was also the "son of Man" or, fully human, and therefore, could not have possessed a blueprint of his entire life. This would definitively rule out his being fully human. Besides this, when heavenly beings arrive on the scene in Luke they come as messengers. After the Transfiguration, Jesus puts his faith in the God who alone can ensure the continuation of his life and ministry after his "exodus". In a sense, he "becomes a citizen of heaven." This gives us the key to answering the question of whether we are to be committed to this world or the next: like Jesus, we are to commit ourselves to this world and the possibility of it being transformed while placing our final hope on the God who awaits us after our own exodus. Simply put, our own transfiguration occurs in the tense "space between" our commitment to this life and our hope in the next. Pat, TOR