Unity or Disunity:
How are we building?
2nd Sunday of Lent
Many communities and families in the world are struggling with unity. The result is that many families are coming under strain: love is hard to see and tolerance is difficult to continue.
In many cultures there are divisions around immigration, Gay Rights, race, religion, etc.
I mention these burning issues because family is the bedrock of society. And Lent is a great time to focus on our family and community lives, rather than giving up chocolate to reduce weight.
I think many people try to resolve family and community issues, but can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps they start asking: what’s the point of all this? Is it really going to work? The answer is: only if we are willing to make changes in our lives. The first place to start with rebuilding unity is to change ourselves. And I think this week’s readings can help.
They are quite challenging to understand and so I want to present the correct symbolism for us to reflect on (https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/genesis-151-12-17-18/).
About v.6: “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.” It’s a key text in the Bible and for each person in history. Abram decides to trust the promise. This is the challenge for each of us; especially those going through struggles in family life or sickness. God is with us: God will not let us fail if we try to be faithful to our promises.
v.9: The animals are three years old (not the usual age of one year for sacrifices), perhaps indicating that the “perfect” moment has arrived to create this Covenant with humanity, and the lack of burning indicates it is not a ritual sacrifice.
God is always ready to start a personal covenant with us: is this Lent the perfect time for us? The real challenge is to not say “I will when my partner decides to change” or “I will if God cures me!” We need to say, personally: “I believe” before we are able to start making changes.
v.10: The animals are divided in half: some say as a sign to us that if we fail to live up to our side of the Covenant, we will face division in our families or communities. Our side of the Covenant, of course, is to love the other through good and bad times. At times tough love may be necessary, but done in a gentle way. The words from St Paul also talk about the benefits of following the example of Jesus Christ so that there is unity in the community and family.
v.11: Some of the prophets describe terrible judgements from God by using the “birds of prey” as the symbol. By scaring off the birds of prey, Abram indicates to us that we also have the capacity to wave off the judgements of God if we believe and be more faithful to our promises.
Now, what’s all this got to do with Jesus and the Transfiguration? In the context of the First Reading today, I suggest that the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) require the presence of Love (Jesus Christ) in order to apply the Law and understand the future through the lens of Love: meaning to be patient and gentle, and persevering with the other person.
Let me ask each of us: in our relationships and communities, who is our mediator? Our mates (telling us to walk away)? Or Jesus Christ (calling us to speak the truth gently)?
Another commentator said about the Transfiguration:
“Jesus is not a “meteorite,” fallen to earth in isolation, without context or preparation; on the contrary, Luke stresses Jesus as being fully in line with two of the greatest figures of Israel’s sacred history: Moses and Elijah… [and] also underscores symbolically Jesus’ profound coherence and continuity with the Old Testament, and the entire history of the Chosen People.”
This encourages us to know that God is with us today, not just as some historical figure. The life of Jesus was not one of timidity and silence and “anything goes”.
So, too, we cannot build unity (peace), unless it is built on truth. And, sometimes, we need to create spaces for people to stop, “reflect” and be transfigured. Jesus took Peter, James and John away from the others for their transfiguration experience.
Afterwards, they could see more clearly the Mission of Jesus and their Mission: truth and unity cannot be separated, and the truth cannot be silent.
The greatest enemy of unity is silence in the face of evil. Every Lent, we are challenged to look at our behaviour and see whether our actions, silence and words bring unity or cause division? Now, can we ask ourselves: “who or what informs my decisions?”
May we be humble and honest during Lent, so that we can be better ministers of the truth and many blessings will eventually follow.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI