Second Sunday of Lent - Christ in the Center

Source: District of Asia

How privileged were the Apostles who walked with Christ up the mountain of the Transfiguration! They had lived with Our Lord for some time, and undoubtedly they felt that they knew Him. Were they not His Apostles? Had they not been chosen and called to His intimate friendship? Still, the mountain-top vision had a tremendous effect on Peter, James and John. There they saw Jesus in an entirely new light. Not only was He changed, but they too were changed. The light that shone from the face of Jesus on the mountain top gave these three a foretaste of heaven. From that time on they could never be quite the same.

In our friendships we have had similar experience. We have known someone for a long time, we have lived or worked with that person; then comes the day when by chance something is said or done, and behold our friend stands revealed before us in an utterly new light. What happened may mean a happy appreciation of his friendship, or then again it may mean the end of it. We have all witnessed beautiful friendships that cracked up overnight. It was the light of this experience that girded the Apostles for the trials and stumbling blocks that were still to come. They were ready now to go the whole way with Jesus. Their religion took on new life.

Seeing the Transfigured Christ

Holy Scripture records some other transfiguration experiences. The penitent thief on the Cross turned and looked straight into the face of Jesus. The sacred face of Our Lord was bathed with sweat and blood, but for the robber it was transfigured and he saw a King in all His glory. That thief was apparently the only person on Calvary that afternoon who was able to pierce the encircling gloom and see the majestic Kingship of Christ: "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." His reward was immediate: "Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise."

It was a transfiguration experience that girded Stephen, the first martyr, as he faced his executioners. Looking steadfastly up he cried: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." As Stephen uttered these words and went to his death for the cause of Christ, there stood on the side lines another man, known as Saul of Tarsus. Certainly Saul must have been impressed at the death of Stephen. Afterwards, when Saul was thrown from his horse and lay prone, on the road to Damascus, he too was to "look up and see only Jesus." Truly, a transfiguration experience for the man called Saul, and it changed him from a fiery zealot for Phariseeism into a great Apostle, known to the. world as St. Paul.

Yes, my friends, all religion comes to life and takes on new character and meaning once Christ enters into the picture. When we read the Lives of the Saints, we find in every instance that it was a rendezvous with Christ that changed these ordinary men and women into His image and likeness. How beautifully this is expressed in one of our hymns!

          Jesus, the very thought of Thee
          With sweetness fills my breast
          But sweeter far Thy face to see
          And in Thy presence rest.

Why Christ Is Rejected

The primary reason for the inadequate sense of religion that so many possess is largely due to the fact that they have a poor idea of God. There is little excuse for this nowadays. If you would know God, if you care to know what He is like, then all you have to do is to get better acquainted with Jesus. The difficulty of the average person today is not in finding the truth and the beauty of Our Blessed Lord; the difficulty is in running away from Him who is called the Christ. Certainly, there is no excuse for ignorance.

A man who goes out into the night determined to commit serious sin, must make a choice. In his way stand two other men; he must lock arms and go down the road with one or the other. One is Christ and the other Barabbas. Christ stands for all that is good, Barabbas for all that is evil. Now, if Christ is to be rejected, the sinner must rid himself of every decent influence all thought of Calvary and the cross, all thought of future life, death, judgment, hell. Little wonder there is such a close link of drink and drugs with crime. For a man must be beside himself to deliberately reject Christ.

          The Gospel story of the rich young man who came to see Jesus is reenacted every day.
          "Master, what shall I do to receive everlasting life?" is the question asked by the young man.
          "Keep the commandments," is Christ's reply.
          "But, Master, all these things I have observed from my youth."
          "If thou wilt be perfect," replies Our Lord, "go sell what thou hast and give to the poor and come and follow Me."

The young man went away sad because he had great possessions. Christ is rejected. Think of the number of people you know who have lost their faith and who live utterly worldly lives, who have sold their birth right for a mess of pottage. No matter how you view so-called "great possessions,' they make no prize package. Yet, many cannot see that, and every day Christ is rejected. The "here and now," no matter how cheap, is preferable to the hereafter.

Badly in need of transfiguration experience are the many who take their religion lightly. They are not invariably a bad lot, and you hesitate calling them pagans. They are just ordinary folk with little faith. Prob- ably you will see them at church on a Sunday morning. Throughout the week, however, they seldom give God a thought. No Sacraments, and little prayer. So they go from day to day and the main reason for their absence of interest or enthusiasm is the plain fact that Christ has never been allowed to enter completely into their hearts. They stand in need of conversion as badly as any sinner or worldly-minded person. Christ stands at the door and knocks-but, how long will He be kept waiting? Oh, I wish that someone listening in this morning would open wide the door of such a person's heart and bid Christ enter in. What an adventure and blessing that would mean!

The Example of Saint Patrick

We are close enough to the feast of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, to use him as an example. It was Christ who transformed Patrick on the hillside of Antrim. The transformation was complete; it embraced the whole man. Christ became part and parcel of Patrick's life. He became another Christ, as every apostle must, and in turn Patrick transformed a country.

We estimate the worth of a man largely by the fruits of his labor, for "a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit." From Patrick's day to this hour, the faith of the Irish has been a source of wonderment and inspiration to any and all who have come in contact with it. It is marvellous faith, deep and abiding. Many have sought to discover the secret of its richness. That can be summed up in a single word, "Christ." For at the core and center of every truly Irish heart you will find a genuine love for Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick put it there, and there it rests today.

In our treasury of prayer we find an old one that is known as Saint Patrick's Breastplate. He wrote it himself. His prayer is our prayer this day:

          May the strength of God guide me this day and may His power preserve me!
          May the wisdom of God instruct me, the eye of God watch over me, the ear of God hear me, the Word of God give sweetness to my speech, the Hand of God defend me, and may I follow the way of God!
          Christ be with me - Christ before me!
          Christ be after me - Christ within me!
          Christ beneath me - Christ above me!
          Christ at my right hand - Christ at my left!
          Christ in the fort - Christ in the chariot!
          Christ in the ship! Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me!
          Christ in the mouth of every man that speaks to me!
          Christ in every eye that sees me! In every ear that hears me!