Sunday Sermon for February 21, 2016, the Second Sunday in Lent, year C

Readings: Gen 15:-12, 17-18; Phil 3:1-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
In the Gospel reading today the Apostles were blessed to hear the voice of God speaking regarding His Son. The first part of the statement, that Jesus is the Son of God, is pretty easy for us to handle. The second part of the statement, however, is far more problematic for us: we are to listen to Him. The idea of listening to Jesus does not simply mean sitting down and being present while He is speaking about something. Listening to our Lord implies that His words enter into our hearts and that we act upon them.

When the three Apostles heard this declaration it had to change them. They had each been affected so profoundly by the Lord’s call to them they they left their business, homes and families to follow Him, they had been traveling with Jesus for quite some time and had been listening to everything our Lord was preaching, but now it was a call from God to allow what Jesus was saying to enter into their hearts and to let His words change their lives.

Suddenly their faith, which had been present from their childhood, was having to be practiced in a way that they had never tried. As Jews there were daily prayers that needed to be said, there were laws that had to be followed in their ways of living and interacting, there were the formal rituals in Jerusalem and the weekly Synagogue visits. In other words, their life could be said to be somewhat comparable to the way a Catholic who practices their faith lives it today.

Now they were called to no longer just practice their faith in an external manner; they were now called to live their lives for the Lord. If the words of Jesus were to make a difference in their lives, they needed to act on His words, all of them. Let’s admit the truth, we all have favorite passages from Scripture that have really affected us, but then there are the rest of the passages that we still allow to go in one ear and out the other.

If we are going to truly listen to Jesus, it means that we have to allow all of His words to have an effect in our lives. St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that our citizenship is in Heaven, so we are to focused on the things of Heaven rather than on the things of earth. By this I do not mean that you no longer have to take a shower, pay your bills, or clean your house. Rather, we are supposed to do everything with a focus on Heaven. So, paying bills is not merely a matter of justice because we are giving someone what is due, but it becomes a matter of charity when we are doing it out of love for God and neighbor.

Just think of the many things you do regularly that you do not like to do. If you we to do those things for the Lord, you could do them with a very positive disposition. Beyond that, you could offer up any struggle you have in doing the things for the good of others. I suspect we all know people who need prayers and penances offered for them. If you do not, then just give them to our Lady, because she has a bunch of children who are in need.

To try to change so that we are not merely living our faith externally, but that we allow God to be at the center of our lives, is not only hard but frightening to many people. We do not like change and, if we let God be the center of our lives, we know things are going to change radically. Even though we know this would be really good, we still tend to be frightened of the unknown. In this case, however, we have a couple of things we can look at to see how God works.

In the first reading we hear about Abram being enveloped by a deep, terrifying darkness. In the Gospel we are told that the Apostles were frightened as they entered the cloud. In both cases we see that God did not harm them in any way, but each of the persons involved came out changed. Abram received God’s covenant and the Apostles had clear direction regarding their mission. The same will happen with us.

It is true that there will probably be some external changes as well. Some people will not want to be around us and we will have to give up some sinful practices (as well as some that aren’t necessarily sinful). These are all changes that would be for the good. Let God in; listen to Jesus and live according to His words.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit