Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Second Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019.)

Listening is an important part of being human. Sound permeates our daily lives.

In the morning, many people awaken to a beeping or buzzing alarm clock, usually a harsh sound meant to startle us awake so that we can begin a new day. On the other hand, if we go outside in the morning, we may hear birdsong, which is pleasant and uplifting.

Now a days it seems more difficult to find places that are truly silent. Televisions in homes, shops and restaurants seem to be on most of the time. Radios blare in the car. Our phones now allow us not only to speak to others, but to listen to music or books or radio. The point here is that we hear a lot of sounds and spend a lot of time listening throughout the day.

During the second week of Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect on the choices we make while listening. As we journey through Lent toward Easter, we have the opportunity to be renewed and refreshed in our lives. Jesus’ invitation to “repent and believe in the Gospel” rings in our ears. We are reminded that he continually calls us to rejoice in the life that has been given us and to experience the fullness of that life. Repentance or turning toward God involves all aspects of life. Today we might consider our “listening.”

The Gospel account for today’s liturgy presents the Transfiguration of the Lord. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain. In the Scriptures, mountains have a symbolic value. Many times, when an important event takes place on a mountain, it is an encounter between the human and the divine.

(Listen to a Gospel reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent by seminarian Kenneth Cavara.)

In the Gospels, Jesus goes up on a mountain for such events. One example might be when he gives the new law – the Sermon on the Mount. Another time was when he appointed the Twelve as Apostles. The Transfiguration is another such account.

Here on the mountain Jesus encounters his Father. As he is transfigured, the three Apostles see his glory. In one sense it is a foretaste of heaven, where, as St. Paul says in our second reading, our true citizenship lies. Moses and Elijah appear, conversing with Jesus. They were talking about Jesus’ “exodus” which “he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

The reference here is to Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Overcome by the experience, Peter says: “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” At this point the evangelist tells us: “But he did not know what he was saying.”

Peter was putting Moses and Elijah on the same plain. In other words, he would equate Moses (who represents the law) and Elijah (who represents the prophets) with Jesus. Hence the Father’s voice comes from the cloud that overshadows them: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

There are many lessons that come from Transfiguration, one of the most important moments in the life of Christ. One is that in him lies the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham (see today’s first reading). He is the one for whom the law and the prophets prepare. Another aspect is that the leaders of the disciples are being prepared and strengthened for the upcoming Passion. Yet another lesson is that Jesus is identified by the Father as his Son.

Perhaps in this Lenten season the aspect we can focus on this week are the words of the Father: “Listen to him.”

From the above examples, I think most people would agree that we spend a lot of time listening or at least hearing throughout the day. If you’re not sure you agree, take a day and observe how much sound you encounter. How much of the day, not including sleep time, was there any silence?

Silence is a good place to listen — not to music or news or talk show hosts or sports stories, but to the voice of the Lord. The Lord speaks in the silence of our hearts and the only way we can listen is to enter into the quiet. Surely reading a passage from Scripture or saying a prayer helps, but time spent in silence will enable us to “listen to him.”

It seems like sometimes we are bombarded with noise. The media we view and listen to are continually conveying a message. Sometimes it is intentional, purposeful and obvious; sometimes it is not. The question becomes as we journey through Lent is – is that message worth hearing or lisenting to? Does this lead me further along the path of life that God offers? Does it hinder me or put an obstacle in my path? Does it lead me in another direction?

To put the question in another way, we can ask ourselves: is the media (entertainment, news, talk, etc.) I listen to or watch good, true or beautiful? If it is, then we may just hear the voice of Jesus coming through, since he himself is the source of all that is good, true and beautiful. But if what we are listening to or watching does not reflect those qualities, then we might want to consider something different or better.

The ability to hear and listen are great gifts that we have received from God. During the Lenten week ahead, we have the opportunity to reflect on our “listening.” As we do so, we can hear the words of the Father over and over: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.