March 5, 2017

Reflection on the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A, Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration

The Second Sunday of Lent (A), March 12, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9

"He saved us and called us to a holy life." (2 Tim1:9) 

The annual retreat of Lent is upon us once again. It is an intense period of prayer in which we unite our hearts, minds, and souls with Christ as He walks His final days on earth, remembering who we are and to what we’re called. Holiness is the key to Lent. A holy life is one that is united with Christ. Through works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the hallmarks of Lent, the disciple will focus her attention on the person of Jesus Christ, and His passion, death, and resurrection. In the journey toward holiness, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will help the person understand the centrality of faith.

One can become holier through fasting. It is an ancient practice in which the person usually sets aside some portion of food for a greater cause. However, one can fast from more than food. The point of fasting is to put aside something that you find important and to fill that space with prayer and Christ. One can survive without that favorite food or activity! Linked with prayer, fasting helps the person see it is Christ and His life that provides meaning in life. Food and favorite activities are temporary fixes in our lives. We will hunger again (and probably soon!) and want that activity again. Christ fills the person completely. In Him, there is no more hunger, for He brings fulfillment to the human person. Detaching oneself from certain foods and activities will only aid in uniting with Christ, and thus further one along the path of holiness.

Almsgiving is another ancient practice of Lent, which unites the person to Christ. Generosity has always been central to the journey of Christian faith. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus reminds His people of the need to be generous. Within the season of Lent, this practice takes on greater meaning. If it is the goal of Lent to be united with Christ, then it is incumbent upon the person to take stock of her life. How much time does the person invest in material possessions? Do those possessions have control over one’s life? The practice of almsgiving, much like that of fasting, will help the person in her goal of uniting herself to Christ. It’s about getting rid of the distractions that hinder the person from fully uniting with Christ. Through fasting the person learns that no food or activity could fill the heart. The same can be said for almsgiving. Giving to others is a direct command of Christ.

Finally, fasting and almsgiving lead the person to prayer. Detaching oneself from worldly realities will lead the person to a posture of prayer. Through fasting and almsgiving, the faithful Christian sees that life is really about Jesus Christ, and the life of holiness. Spending time in prayer is the natural result of fasting and almsgiving. Prayer is not so much the use of words as it is time spent with God. Formulas of prayers learned in childhood have a special place in our hearts and lives; they lead us into prayer, or conversation with God. Offer your fasting and almsgiving to the Lord in prayer that He may see your efforts at detaching yourself from unneeded things and your desire to unite yourself to Him. Spend time with the Word of God found in the Scriptures, that you might know Christ beer.

Let’s make Lent a real retreat this year. Take the time to fast, pray, and give alms. Find ways of going beyond the minimal requirements of the Church for this great season. Everyone can fast, pray, and give alms, to some level. Detach yourselves from earthly and transitory realities in order to unite yourselves to Christ. Thus, on Easter Sunday you will wake up to the Resurrection, finding hope in Jesus Christ who has conquered sin, suffering, and death. You will know Christ because you have united yourself to Him, thus making you holy.

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