Second Sunday in Lent
Reading I Genesis 12:1-4
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 2, 22
Reading II 2 Timothy 1:8-10
Gospel Matthew 17:1-9
Each Sunday we read from Cycles A, B, C and this particular Gospel is read the second Sunday of Lent. We hear this story from each of the writers. They all give a little twist to it, but they are all saying the same thing. They are asking us, “Have you ever learned to trust in God?” In the First Reading, Abraham was asked to trust in God and to go to a land where no one had every been and in doing so — you will touch the hearts of people. The Second Reading talks about Paul. Paul gathered up his disciples and said, “We are going to places you have never been.”
And this morning the Gospel puts it all together. God is speaking. Moses and Elijah appear, Jesus is transformed and at that very moment they discover that he really was God. If you remember when Jesus was born how he appeared to Elizabeth and Zachariah, how he appeared to Mary and Joseph, how when John was baptizing in the Jordan and the sky opened up and the voice came, “This is by beloved son. Trust him.”
Well, we are 2,000 years later and yet we still have those moments of faith, and those moments of faith is God intervening in our lives. He doesn’t have to say anything, but you know it, you feel it in your body.
For those of you who are married, hopefully you felt something on your wedding day. I am not talking about the reception, I am not talking about the tuxedoes or the dress. I am talking about two people standing right here and saying, “I trust you to lead me home to God. That’s all I ask of you. The rest I can handle.”
Or the day that I was ordained it was said, “Those who wish to be ordained, please step forward.” And in one word we said, “Adsum” which means, “I am present and I am ready to live out whatever you ask.”
When you bring home the gift of a child, you realize a miracle has taken place because no one can do that on his or her own. But it is because two people said, “I will lead you to God and together if we are blessed with children — we will lead them to God.”
There are a lot of voices in the world. It’s not strange things and, you are not hearing things. And all Jesus keeps saying is, “Follow me, just trust me.” Then you begin to realize that “Wow, there is something more to this that I really cannot grasp.” We are having so much discussion about immigrants coming and going in this country and around the world. I remember when several years ago I made a trip to New York City and I took the boat out to Ellis Island and to the Statue of Liberty. There are different levels you can climb and I went all the way up into the crown. When I got up there I looked out over the ocean, I thought of my great-grandparents coming over from Germany and going to Ellis island not knowing what was going to happen to them. They had left everything — but they didn’t leave God. They left their families, their friends and they came to a land and found their way to the bluffs of the Mississippi to a little town called Quincy. There was not much here — just some factories — but they saw a life and a future full of hope.
When you drive around these neighborhoods from Locust to Harrison Street and from Eighth Street on down to the river, notice the homes. They didn’t have lots of money and many of the homes in this neighborhood were just straight and narrow — a kitchen, maybe a living room, mostly bedrooms. No plumbing, but they believed there was something here, and now, several generations later, we have a whole different experience — but it’s still the same God. Who would we be unless our grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents had a strong enough faith. And that’s why as you travel throughout the country, and especially in the East and the West — what did they do? They built magnificent churches out in the fields where there was no one, but they built the church.
When I lived in Villa Grove, Illinois, there was a little town of Desoto near by. The town is out on a country road and the town is small but they built a magnificent church. They have a rectory and a cemetery. They used to have a school there, and the people would say, “Oh, you know, life is so different today. Sunday really was the Lord’s Day. We came by horse and buggy, we came from our farms and we left early in the morning and we came to church and had Mass. We all brought food and the children went outside and played. Then it was afternoon and we all went back into the church for Vespers. Then it got dark and we loaded up our kids in our wagons we went back to our farms. It truly was the Lord’s Day.”
All of these things have been moments for people when God was right there with them.
This church is much more beautiful than any home in this area. But it was built by sacrifice. The altar that you see here was hand-carved. It is not a Wal-mart special. It was hand-carved and people spent hours making sure that this House of God would always be a House of God. So every time you and I come into church, and every time when a child is born and parents bring their children to this church to be baptized, and to receive their first Holy Communion, and to be confirmed and to witness their children getting married — these are sacred moments. And I would say to all of you who are old enough to have your son or daughter stand up here and give their vows to each other, it is going to take you back to the day when you gave your vows to each other, take you back to the day when you made your first Holy Communion, and when you were confirmed, and when you were married.
So today Jesus is telling us, “Last Sunday I told you to go out in the desert and find a space where you have no distractions so you can pray and just let God fill your mind with memories, memories of when God has been speaking to you and will continue to speak with you — and then realize what we mean by faith.” And hopefully that’s why when you and I come forward and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we know this is something different. These are the moments that keep coming alive year after year.
So today, what moment is in your life? What is coming alive in your heart? Maybe none of the things I am talking about. It may have been your first job and how you felt. As young people today leave home and go to different parts of the country or world, what is it like to be in a place all by yourself and waiting for someone to say, “I don’t think I know you.” And you found home.
That’s why we greet people in church. Because we never know on any given Sunday who is going to walk in here and want a home and have God transfigured before them. Something will say to them, “I feel comfortable here.” So as we journey through these forty days — it’s more than not eating meat on Friday. It’s really saying, “Why am I one of God’s children? Why did my parents have me baptized? Why do I pray? Why do I trust?” And all we have to do is look at the Statue of Liberty, or look at the steeple of any church, or look at the front porch of any home — and memories will come to us.
And Jesus will say, “I am your God, believe in me and know that wherever I send you, you are supposed to go.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file Disc C 0021)