Sunday Sermon for March 17, 2019, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year C
Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
In the first reading God establishes a covenant with Abram and makes the promise by which the “Promised Land” is known: “To your descendants I give this land…” A religious covenant is an agreement between God and His people. There are promises and stipulations that accompany a covenant but, in essence, God always makes the same promise: I will be your God, you will be my people, and I will provide everything you need and bring you into the land of promise.
Every covenant also has three characteristics: permanence, fidelity, and life. The covenant with Abram states that he will have descendants ans numerous as the stars in the sky and his descendants will possess the land. The Lord has entered into a half dozen covenants with humanity throughout its history; each of them is still in effect. God is always faithful to what He has promised, even though humanity has a very poor track record in maintaining its fidelity to God.
As wonderful as all the covenants are, each one building upon the previous one, nothing can compare with the covenant into which we have been incorporated. As always, God makes the same promises, but in the New Covenant the “Promised Land” is not Israel, but Heaven. This only makes sense because in the New Covenant we are baptized into Jesus Whom God declares in the Gospel reading is His Son. Because we are members of Jesus, Who is God, we are not merely the people of God; we are children of God. It is with this in mind that St. Paul says in the second reading that our citizenship is in Heaven.
Each of us needs to look into our own heart and ask how faithful we have been to this covenant. The history of the Jewish people does not leave us with much reason for confidence. The history of the Christian people does not offer us any more reason to be confident. It is easy to look at what is going on in the Church right now and see the gross infidelity to God. It is getting to the point where people are not even giving lip service to God any more. It seems people want to live a pagan life of debauchery rather than striving to live a life of holiness.
Hopefully none of us has gone that far, but the concern is always that we tend toward the middle ground. As people continually push the boundaries further out, the middle keeps moving in the direction of the new boundary. This has always been the mode of operation in America. People become so conditioned by the media and the educators that they try to compromise between what the Church has always taught and what society holds up as the norm.
As Catholics we have to recognize that Jesus is the norm. He came into this world, among other reasons, to teach us how to live as we were created to live. Of course, Jesus is God and never sinned, so some people, recognizing that it is not possible to never sin, have rejected Jesus as their example. Our Lord never said we would follow His example perfectly, but He did teach us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect and to learn from Him because He is meek and humble of Heart. If we grow in humility and charity, we will be like Him and we will be following His example and grow in perfection.
We say we want to spend eternity in Heaven, but somehow we do not see the disconnect between this desire and living a life that is very contrary to this desire. We have to strive to live as Children of God. The Lord has promised eternal life, but not in an absolute sense. The promise is not that everyone will go to Heaven, but those who die in the State of Grace will go to Heaven. This requires going to confession, praying, following the Commandments, and trying to be like Jesus.
In case we still think being like Jesus is too difficult, thank God He has given us two thousand years’ worth of Saints. St. Paul told the Philippians to imitate him and observe those who conduct themselves like him. He goes on to contrast the people who imitate him with those who show themselves to be enemies of the Cross of Christ. They glory in their shame and their minds are occupied with earthly things. Their end, he says is destruction. You are a child of God and a citizen of Heaven. Keep your mind on the things of Heaven, strive for fidelity to the covenant by living according to your dignity on earth, and you will be transfigured to share in the glory of God in Heaven.