Sunday Sermon for March 13, 2022, the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C
Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
In the second reading today, St. Paul tells us that our citizenship is in Heaven. That means that in the present we are living, in essence, in a foreign land. While we are in that foreign land, we need to learn the language and the customs so we can live in that culture, but we should always have our focus on going home. Hopefully none of us becomes so enamored with this world, this society, or this culture that we would see this as our home and prefer this to our true homeland.
The concern in this regard, is that if we begin looking at this world as our homeland, then we will begin to act in a way that is contrary to the way a citizen of Heaven should be acting. St. Paul puts it very simply and succinctly as: “they conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Jesus must be our example of how to live in this world with our focus on Heaven. As God, He is the true citizen of Heaven. Still, He humbled Himself to live in our world, according to the ways of first century Jewish society. He lived and worked in that environment and was always united with His earthly parents, but His focus was always on Heaven and on doing the will of His Father in Heaven.
The Cross, of course, is the point of unity between Heaven and earth, but also between justice and charity. If we show ourselves to be enemies of the Cross, it is because our focus is earthly and selfish, just the opposite of Jesus. We are saved only by what Jesus did for us on the Cross, so the Cross is our only hope and, therefore, the Cross must be the focal point of our lives. Everything in our lives should have the Cross as its point of reference. If something is antithetical to the Cross, it must be rejected. We cannot claim that we are just living according to the social mores of our culture, because if those mores are in opposition to the Cross, they oppose God and, therefore, they oppose us as His children, as members of Jesus, and as citizens of Heaven.
Needless to say, the Cross is not something that attracts people to itself. The attraction of the Cross is the One Who died on it and the reason He died on it. For us, the Cross is about Jesus and His love for us. This is the attraction. Even so, on the natural level the Cross still causes us to look away. We must remember that in the garden, even Jesus felt the horror of what the Passion and Cross were going to bring on the natural level. However, He was able to look beyond what is merely natural and, looking at the fruit of the Cross, His love drove Him to embrace the Cross.
As we hear in the Gospel, Jesus was prepared for the Cross when Moses and Elijah spoke with Him of His exodus. This recalls the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, their time at Sinai, and their forty years in the desert. But it also recalls what St. Paul says about what happened to the people: they were baptized into Moses and into the cloud. This is the same cloud that overshadowed Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and the Apostles in the Gospel reading. It is also the same cloud that enveloped Abraham in the first reading.
The cloud, known in Hebrew as the Shekinah, is the Holy Spirit. This is the same cloud that overshadowed our Lady at the Annunciation, and filled the Meeting Tent when Moses would speak with God, and also filled the Temple at its dedication. We have probably not had the experience of being overshadowed by the glory cloud and hearing the voice of God, but we have been baptized into Jesus and have become temples of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the glory of God dwells within us and therefore, God’s grace is within us so we can accept and embrace the Cross.
We notice that the cloud is present when something major is happening, something that will change the life of the person who is overshadowed. With each of the Sacraments you have received, something similar happens. God gives us the grace to embrace the Christian life and everything it entails. His grace allows us to be more and more conformed to Christ and to reject anything that would make us enemies of the Cross. In so doing, God’s grace makes us able, while still living in this world, to live as true citizens of Heaven with our focus on God as we strive to do His holy will and embrace His holy Cross!
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 www.thewandererpress.com.