Saturday, March 11, 2017

Homily Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Gen 12:1-4a;
·         Ps 33:4-5, 18-20, 22;
·         2 Tm 1:8b-10
·         Matt 17:1-9

Rise Up, Do Not Be Afraid(Matt 17:7)!

In today’s Gospel of transfiguration and renewal Matt 17:1-9, Jesus tells his disciples on Mount Tabor to “rise up and do not be afraid.” This seems to capture the essence of today’s readings and the spirit of Lenten prayer, alms giving, Lenten fasting and retreats, since our life’s journeys are characterized by uncertainties, challenges, hardships, trials, and sometimes humanly unpredictable circumstances. These trials can show up in our communities in any disguise: Trials of poverty and trials of abuse of wealth and inordinate desire for pleasure. Trials of lack of comfort and and trials of  abuse of comfort, forgetting God, the poor, the needy and the common good. Trials of impatience and trials of indifference about the plight of our neighbors. Trials of overreaction and trials of uneasiness about change, transformation, renewal or fear of the unknown. We can only accomplish our Christian journeys if we trust and hope in God, if we put our faith in God; if we are ready like Abraham, Christ's disciples and Paul to rise up, take up our daily crosses and follow Jesus on his journey to heavenly glory!

In Genesis 12 Abraham, our patriarch is told to embark on a journey to the land promised him by God and never to be afraid. Trusting in God Abraham did exactly the same. He leaves his native Mesopotamia, without a GPS to an unknown destination: a land that God would show him. He is met with all kinds of trials. Sarah is barren for sometimes. If she is barren how would the promise of many children by God come to a fulfilment (Gen 11:31; 16ff)? King Pharaoh threatens to the beauty of Sarah and the veracity of Abraham (Gen 12:10-20). This goes on and on. In these trying moments, the only thing Abraham has is putting his faith, hope and trust in God. He keeps going. He journeys on. He is ready for change guided by God. He is not beaten down by trials and the hardships of his journeys. How do we handle our daily trials, illnesses, deprivations, hunger, confusions? Do you throw in the towel or do we keep rising, keep walking, and keep going in faith, with openness for a renewal.

Going back to that story of transfiguration- on his journey to the cross Jesus brought his disciples, Peter, James and John to the mountain of transfiguration, mount Tabor, where Jesus’s face was transfigured and transformed. Christ’s face shone like the sun to the disciples. His cloth also became white as a bright light. Moses the law giver and Elijah the prophet also appeared to them, chatting with Jesus. So many transformation here. The brightness of the sun and the serenity of this mountain top gave the disciples such a joy and peace that they would want to remain there forever, building houses for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
 But for Jesus the journey was not complete, without his cross.  Tabor experience was only the foretaste of his glorious coming; a foretaste of victory over the cross.  The disciples would have to keep going and be patient with themselves, not to be afraid, and not complain or tell anyone about this mountain top experience, this vision, until the son of man has been raised from the dead. The glory of this vision is not earth bound, but heavenly bound. Our Christian journeys are  not earthly bound, but heavenly. Our Lenten charities and disciplines are not earthly bound but heavenly, at the resurrection!

 Paul understood this as well. His missionary journeys, after his conversion and personal transformation, were not without ups and downs. There were times he was beaten, ship wrecked and thrown into prisons. He bore it patiently because he knew they were not earthly bound, but heavenly where God’s glory awaited Paul. The more reason he specifically says to Timothy, “beloved bear your share of hardship for the gospel, with the strength that comes from God (2 Tim 1:8-10). Who’s God?  The God of God of Abraham (Gen 12), who commands Jesus’ disciples in today’s gospel to ‘listen to him,” who commands us to “rise and not to be afraid” Matthew 17:7!
 What are your challenges as  you journey through lent: temporary pleasure, abuse of alcohol, drugs, your body, inordinate taste for power, material possessions; attachment to  electronic gadgets,  selfishness, indifference attitude and insensitivity to our neighbor’s sufferings? How do we move beyond these challenges, beyond the Tabor experience? Or are your challenges and trials in form of hunger, joblessness, uneasiness about change, experience of injustice, violent, scandal, stress, betrayals, illnesses and disappointments or difficulty to cope with the pains of the loss of someone we loved?

Whatever form we may experience trials and hardship the Jesus of Lent and the Son of the God of Abraham wants us to rise up and never to be afraid as we journey in faith, hope and love through life.

Reflection Questions:

1.    What are your fears and life trials and how do you, in the light of today’s bible readings  exemplarily handle them in your faith community?

2.    How do we manage our blessings of wealth, comfort, money etc so that they do not alienate us from the Glory of the Lord?

3.    In faith and trust in God, do we our Christian pilgrimage as earthly or heavenly bound?