Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent (Cycle B)
Our life is a journey back to the nothingness of death.
We are enveloped in the unshakeable reality that we will all come to our end, that the best and the worst of each of us will culminate to the form of a cold corpse, that all our accomplishments and failures are destined to inevitably return to become the lifeless mass of dust or ashes from which we were shaped – an uncomfortable realization that our earthen womb is also our earthen tomb.
Death has “no friends nor enemies”; everybody is “an invited guest” whose options are strictly limited only to the choice of time of the rendezvous.
It is therefore “simply being human” to be extremely anxious over its untimely ending. To “be human” is to avoid death for as long as possible; to ponder on how to encounter and confront it when it draws near; to explore the curious possibilities of predicting when it will happen; and to wonder on whether or not we can evade or come back from it.
The essence of our “humanity” is rooted in the desire to preserve itself and to try to become the “best it can be.” We are taught from childhood to discover what life has to offer, to work hard to earn the comforts of the present, and to overcome – lest we be overwhelmed – by the fear of more powerful foes and an unknown future.
It disturbs us greatly that we cannot live forever in the zeal and frenzy of our busy lives cluttered with stressful deadlines, a passion for unrelenting efficiency, multiple tasks and commitments, aspirations for power and a life of material indulgence.
It disturbs us even more that such finite lives hence should not be lived in mediocrity, that it must be spent with a disciplined and competitive spirit, fueled by creative and reckless abandon.
The game of life and the prize of glory must be won with the conscious struggle of avoiding to become like the “weak and ordinary,” for these lowly ones will not live long.
We in turn, despise them who are resigned to the fate of death, those who have fallen from the struggle, those who have become timid, perverse or vulgar.
We have grown to become fearful of and resistant to death. We have been accustomed to be suspicious of or even to hate others. Anything or anyone that seeks to look down upon or threaten the joys and comforts of life that we have worked hard to earn or may possibly earn, must be carefully watched and guarded against.
Sacrifice is an action that runs contrary to our life’s conditioning. It is an action tended against the self-centeredness we thought we need to have in order to survive; it is an action which seems to irrationally invite the death we all fear and dread. It is as abhorrent as death itself. So, the story of Abraham’s sacrifice is a puzzling tale that may either be dismissed as the behavior of a confused and eccentric old man; or accepted as a supernatural encounter we all hope we would never have.
But sacrifice – this journey towards a death to the self – is necessary for our faithful service to the kingdom of God. It is an action we must choose not only to willingly undergo the pain in fulfilment of God’s will, but to dutifully accomplish for the sake of and not to refuse any burden or obstacle that stands in the way of justice and peace. The ultimate rewards of sacrifice are the sustainability of generations to come, and elevation to a higher spiritual state of glory which for now, God only knows.
Truly, the sacrifice of the faithful is “precious in the eyes of the Lord.” The essence of our “divinity” is rooted in the desire to preserve humanity and to try to “bring out the best” in each and every person.
We are clearly reminded today that though God spared Abraham’s son, he did not spare his own. Our Father teaches us through the story of Abraham what our willingness to sacrifice can do for the world; and through the story of the Christ, what real sacrifice has done for the benefit of all.
We have always remembered that our Lord poignantly demonstrated in the example of his death, that this life should not be devoted entirely for oneself; it must eventually be dedicated for others. His Transfiguration is God’s gift of a vision of the eternal paradise waiting for us at the end of our service and ultimate sacrifice for him.
The Transfiguration points to the fleetness of life, and to the mystery of heavenly glory in “the life to come.” Life is but a millisecond compared to infinity, and every valuable moment is a decision we can in compassion, spare for a sacrificial act of faithfulness and selflessness.
We can see how our love for this short life, and resistance to any form of sacrifice, has effectuated selfishness, marginalization and social unrest; we cannot fail to see the irony that in aspiring for a happy and ideal life, we all end up in a mutual misery.
Can we not now see how we must be wiser in spending “this short life”, emptying ourselves of its allurements and pleasures so that we can all live it in harmony and tranquility? Can we not now see how we must be wiser instead in hoping for and looking forward to “the life to come?”
May the Transfiguration inspire us to the sacrifice of our lives in service, becoming like the “weak and ordinary,” and courageous in the face of death. May it also inspire us to be steadfast in serving the “weak and ordinary” until death.
In this season of Lent, let us begin to resolve that for the rest of our days, we must never dare refuse a call by God to do a mission and offer our lives in sacrifice for him.