Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Delivering Stories of Progress


LIFE MATTERS: 2nd Sunday of Lent 2024 Reflections

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By Dr. Dencio S. Acop (Ret. Colonel)

It’s been a while since I last wrote. Duty calls when family calls. It’s quiet again, and serving at the Second Sunday of Lent gave me the urge to drop in a few lines. One thing I love about Catholicism is that it has a schedule for everything wrapped around the Giver of Life. Like the seasons of weather, it commemorates the life of Christ from His birth (Advent until Christmas) to His passion, death, and resurrection (Lent until Holy Week and Easter). The period in between it calls Ordinary Time. But really this period is extraordinary too as it is the time when our faith is tested through the ordinariness of daily living. After all, it is in the dreariness of desolation, more than in the exultation of consolation, that we are found for who we really are and what our love for Christ is really like. Advent and Lent in the Christian calendar are meant to inspire us about the truth of our faith lived through the long months of Ordinary Time when we are left on our own battling it out with the world like Jesus’ forty days in the desert before His transfiguration. But really, we are not alone in this ordinary period of life as God is with us so long as we remain faithful to Him. To be with Him forever.

The first reading from the Book of Genesis narrates how God tested the faith of Abraham. Isaac was Abraham’s miracle baby with Sarah in their old age. So, to sacrifice Isaac was a pain no parent could endure. Only faithfulness to God and absolute trust in His wisdom made Abraham obey God’s command atop Mount Moriah. But, as the hand of Abraham was about to slaughter Isaac, the Angel of the Lord stops him. God’s messenger relays his Sender’s message: ‘I swear by myself, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing – all this because you obeyed my command.’ In this passage, God’s message to each one of us is very clear: Be faithful as I am the Lord your God; From now on, you are untouchable; For I am with you. 

The second reading reflects on the first: ‘Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died – or rather, was raised – who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.’ This passage from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans attests to the kind of life that followers of Christ will live through. Christian life is not an easy life. For it is an imitation of the life of Christ. Every true Christian will have to carry his own cross in this life like Christ did. The cross will be the mark of every baptized. Like Simon of Cyrene, there will be the Christian community (the mystical body and bride of Christ on earth) working with the Holy Spirit that will assist Christians bear their crosses. But ultimately, every living soul has one personal destiny with God who is the only one who knows about it. Saint Paul says not to worry because God is on the side of the faithful. Every follower therefore should have ‘no fear’ and ‘just do it’. The enemy of today is indeed powerful and mighty. The lure of money and power invested in modern technology has enslaved the world. As a result, the world can no longer see beyond ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘I do as it has been done to me’. Those who resist the temptations of the world are like sheep among wolves as Christ was. Ultimately, the good are made to pay for the sins of the bad. But only in the world. Saint Paul says take heart no matter what; ‘fight the good fight’ for the Lord is with you. And you will win. For at the end of all days, God is the last man standing. So, if you are with God, you’re good, man. 

Finally, the Gospel from Saint Mark recalls the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. The narrative tells us that Jesus went up the mountain with His apostles Peter, James, and John – the inner circle of His disciples. There, they saw Moses and Elijah. The Magisterium explains that Moses and Elijah signify the law and the prophets of the Old Testament. It expounds that these two must now give way to the fulfillment of the Old: Jesus Christ – the New Testament. The Transfiguration was God’s introduction of the concept of the resurrection to the apostles. The apostles would eventually witness the resurrected Christ within 6-40 days from this moment. The Transfiguration is both a natural and spiritual event. The immortality of the soul was certainly alien to Peter, James, and John who could not comprehend what was going on in that mountain. So much so that the only thing Peter could muster to retort was ask the Lord if they could build three tents for the Lord, Elijah, and Moses! But really, Jesus was already preparing the world through His disciples about what is to come in the next few days and the rest of the life of the world thereafter. That there is so much more to this life than just our petty drunkenness with power and mindless addictions to money, sensual pleasure, and self-absorption. That the greatest favor we can do ourselves is to love God with all our heart and mind. And that until we become transfigured, our hearts shall always be restless.                       

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