This Sunday: Jesus Begins With the End in Mind
, March 8, 2017
“Begin with the end in mind,” said 1990s self-help guru Stephen Covey – channeling Aristotle. The Church also believes this is a great way to go about Lent.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the readings took us to one of the initiating events of Christ’s public ministry, as he was tempted by the devil.
On the second Sunday of Lent, we are taken to one of the initiating events of Christ’s passion, when he is transfigured on Mount Tabor.
There are a few parallels between the two.
- On both occasions, the Father’s voice declares: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” In the first week of Lent, this was an in advance of Jesus’s long fast. Now, it is the Father’s affirmation in advance of the terrors of the passion.
- On both occasions, Jesus gave us a great example. At the beginning of his public ministry, we saw his heroic rejection of the devil. Today, we see his glorious transfiguration, revealing who he really is.
Both readings are meant for us as we work through Lent.
We never get to see what every step in our journey will be – instead, we get two things. Like Jesus, we get a reminder that Our Father in heaven loves us. And thanks to Jesus, we get the ultimate example of what the fulfillment of this journey will look like.
The Gospel says: “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”
This reveals the real glory that is always present in Jesus: He is always a luminous being, truly God, hidden in his humanity.
We too have a secret identity in God. The “end” of Lent is Easter, but the “end” of our sacrifice – our fasting, prayer and almsgiving – is the full realization of the glory we have in Christ.
It can be easy to go through the sacrifice of Lent aiming at a different “end.” We might adopt a diet in Lent to lose weight. We might give up a bad habit to improve our lives and become “better versions of ourselves.”
But the end of Lent is not a better me; the end of Lent is a self-emptying of myself into the life of Christ. The end of Lent is his glory, not mine.
The first two readings today make that point.
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you,” God says to Abram. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.”
God told him the end, and trusted him to begin.
Likewise, “Beloved,” Paul says in our next reading, “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel.” To what end? “The grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began … who destroyed death and brought life.”
So this Lent, begin with the end in mind.
If we stay faithful to our Lenten sacrifice by living in conformity with the will of the Father and the witness of the Son and the love of the Spirit, we have much to look forward to: Not a better version of ourselves, but for a version of ourselves that is united to luminous Body
Photo: Transfiguration-Rubens.JPG, Wikimedia Commons
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