Sometimes we need a glimpse of hope when our world seems otherwise dark and scary. Last week, we experienced in Mark’s Gospel Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Once He emerges from the desert, He begins His public ministry and instruction of His disciples. Preceding the Gospel we hear on the Second Sunday of Lent, Jesus begins to paint a picture of the direction of His path of life. He begins to give His disciples a sense of His impending death. As you can imagine, they must’ve been quite disheartened. They had been awaiting a Messiah, but not the kind of Messiah who would suffer the death that Jesus was anticipating. Knowing that there was a long path still ahead of them, Jesus gives them a glimpse of hope and glory.
Taking Peter, James and John with Him to the mountaintop, He gives them a glimpse of the full meaning of His life and a sense of how powerful it could be. For Him to be present with Moses and Elijah, He allows the disciples to glimpse the law and the prophets brought to fulfillment in Him. The disciples were stunned, fearful and tempted to simply stay in this present seemingly safe environment rather than taking the next steps of the journey. Wanting to pitch tents and stay on the mountaintop is a temptation that all of us have experienced, and many of us have given into.
Since we are all attempting to be disciples of Jesus, we understand a temptation to stay in the status quo. We know that God asks us to make daily, difficult sacrifices for the sake of the fulfillment of His promises. When Abraham was asked to take his son Isaac to a place of sacrifice, he understood clearly what was being asked of him. Can’t you imagine the mind and heart of Abraham at that time? Isaac was the flesh and blood proof of the fulfillment of the promises of God. And yet it seemed that God was asking him to give up even that fulfillment. Can you take a moment now to imagine where you might be tempted to stay in your current life situation, trying to avoid the sacrifices that God is asking you to make, so that nothing of value or purpose is asked of you? Can you see why we are tempted to avoid hearing the voice of God, when we know that we will be asked to sacrifice our current security for the sake of trusting more deeply that God has more in mind for us than we can imagine? During the season of Lent, this could be part of our fasting. Can we fast from our need for false securities? Can we surrender our understanding of God’s will as God reveals to us a deeper and more lasting fulfillment? We are told in Scripture that “we walk by faith and not by sight.” Is that true now for you or is there a need for repentance, purification and a change of mind and heart?
As we contemplate the wisdom given to us in the Scriptures this weekend, we might ask ourselves about the direction of our lives. Who is it or what is it that controls our life? What is the purpose of our lives? Many of us are taught that the purpose of our lives is to know love and serve God. But I wonder if that truly is the purpose that rules the choices of our daily lives. Might it be true that we are willing to serve God as long as God doesn’t ask too much of us? Might it be true that we are willing to listen to God when God’s inspiration agrees with our understanding? Is it true that we only invite God into our lives when we have exhausted all of our own options? How often do we practice voluntarily emptying ourselves and allowing God to fill us with an overwhelming sense of God’s presence? As we hear from St. Paul this weekend, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
This second week of Lent leads us more deeply into the mysteries of the living, dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Let us use this time well as we move through the desert into the promised land.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.