2nd Sunday of Lent "A"

H O M I L Y

Abraham's father came from Ur in Chaldaea (Gn 11:31) and settled at Harān, much more to the north. Growing up in Ur meant exposure to the most elaborate culture of the world at the time. Ur was the place where the first tribunals known to history appeared, as well as the first social legislation. There agriculture had reached a technical excellence never known before. But that development, with the conflicts that it generated, caused a considerable movement of migration northwards to take place in the 17th century before Christ. The migration was joined by Abraham's father and his family. Harān, where he settled, some one thousand miles north of Ur, was a cross-roads for caravans. It was the extreme limit of the Sumerian civilization, to which Ur belonged. A further journey would mean a change of culture.

So, Abraham himself belonged to a first generation of immigrants in Harān. And we all know that a first generation of immigrants in a new land needs stability and security in order to make roots. But what happened was that Abraham received a call from God to leave that security, to go beyond the border of his culture, to embark on a journey into the unknown, with no other security than God's word. He did take God's word, and for that reason he was called the father of all the believers. "He went out, says the Book of Genesis, not knowing where he was to go". His journey was full of dangers and temptations, but he overcame all of them and came to the promised land.

Almost two thousand years later, the Son of God was also sent on a journey, which constituted, in the words of saint Paul, a leaving all his divine privileges behind. He first settled at Nazareth, as Abraham had done in Hāran. But one day, at his baptism in the Jordan, he heard his messianic call, that set him on a new journey on the roads of Judaea and Galilee. He also met temptation, as we saw in last Sunday's gospel, and danger.

When he started preaching in Capharnaum and in Nazareth, the crowds were in admiration, and they revered him as they would have a prophet. He pulled himself away from that temptation. Then, after the first miracles, especially after the multiplication of the loaves, they wanted to crown him their king. Another temptation, from which he ran away. But as he became a threat for the powers to be, they staged a constant war against him and the crowds gradually deserted him. At some point he clearly realized that they would get him; that he was going to die. That was an important turning point in his active life. From that time on he dedicated most of his time and energy forming his disciples rather than preaching to the crowds.

The incident we read in today's Gospel took place at that crucial moment in his life. He had just announced his death to his disciples. Then he brought three of them to the mountain for a night of prayer. There, when every human expectation had been destroyed, when only pure, naked hope in the father remained, when everything that was not his messianic mission was taken away or falling apart, his real identity was revealed. He was transfigured. The whole of his humanity was reduced to God's will on him.

There is in that episode of the transfiguration, not only a revelation on the person of Christ, but also a revelation on the nature of our moral life. Too often we are inclined to make our faith simply a moral ideal, reducing the gospel message to a rule of life, albeit a particularly noble one. What we are called to is to be transfigured. To become identified, in our whole human being, with God's will on us, through our fidelity to pursue our journey in the wilderness.

Lent should not be a short penitential parenthesis in our lives. It is a time when we are reminded that we are a people on a journey through wilderness. We have been called and sent. To accept the radical insecurity of that journey is the price to pay if we want to reach the promised land of our own transfiguration in Christ. With thanksgiving let us continue our eucharistic celebration, in which Christ gives himself to us as the new manna, the food we need in order to keep going on.