Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Today, candidates from the Cathedral parish and St Joseph’s School will sign up, as it were, to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation later in the year. Through that Sacrament we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This makes today a pointer to Pentecost. Today too we hear the Gospel of the Transfiguration, which points us to the Resurrection and Easter. So, with these things in view, we continue our Lenten journey. And as ever we make it with those to be baptised or received into the Church at the Paschal Vigil, here and throughout the world.

Lent is a time of grace. Lent is a springtime of the spirit. God is at work. We can sense this in so many ways: church attendance usually rises; adults and children are preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation; people approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We feel the need to put our life in order, to make sure we’re right with God. People get engaged too! Every priest witnesses these things at this time of year. And with what’s seen, there’s what’s not seen: personal reflection and prayer, turnings of mind and heart, the inner movements of the Holy Spirit.  Shakespeare somewhere has the line: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” The Holy Spirit has his tides and seasons, and Lent is one of them. And if we catch this tide, the Lord works things in our lives. God is always in action, but in Lent it’s as if we actually see him putting on his boots and running on to the pitch. The game is on!

“God put Abraham to the test” begins the first reading. “With God on our side who can be against us?” asks St Paul in the second. And the Gospel begins: “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain.”  God first in every case; his initiative; his action. This is the overarching message of Lent and Easter and Pentecost. The God of grace is acting, giving, pressing, nudging, transforming us. Even through the piercing of our hearts – as happened to Abraham, and to Mary under the Cross, as is happening in warzones and in the sufferings wherever of those who are dear to us – the Isaacs of our lives – God’s greater and gracious purpose and providence run on. Abraham, our father in faith, in today’s 1st reading goes through a spiritual death and resurrection. And through it he’s made large enough to father more than Isaac, a people, a new humanity. Mary, our mother in faith, travels the same path through her son’s death and resurrection, and is now mother of us all. Yes, God is on our side. God is at play, in action, pursuing a gracious purpose.

Today, the Primary Schoolers will write their names and in time receive the Holy Spirit. At the Easter Vigil our year – 2024 – will be inscribed on the Paschal candle and we will hail the Risen Christ.

Why do we have this Gospel of the Transfiguration on this Sunday of Lent? To take us out of our ground-level life, up the mountain of faith, to be shown a beauty we had never imagined. Christ’s face shines: it’s the Son’s love for his Father breaking through. His garments turn bright; it’s his love for us overflowing. He’s clothed with us, and his grace in us will one day flower in glory. What is Christianity, our faith, Easter? They are not about making us slightly nicer people. They are Christ in us, the hope of glory. They are the Holy Spirit overshadowing us. They are the voice of the Father, saying to each of us: this is my beloved son. Our candidates write their names today and will become temples of the Spirit. Abraham obeyed and received his beloved Isaac back and so much more. “This is my beloved Son” – on the Cross, in the suffering, rising from the dead, on the altar, in our mouths and hearts, in our community. “Listen to him!”  IN him the whole fulness of divinity dwells and he comes to fill us.

Let’s write our names and receive the Spirit. Let’s open the door of our lives just a crack more. God’s glory is waiting…

St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, 25 February 2024


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
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