Second Sunday of Lent

Some decisions are easy to make. What do I wear? What’s for dinner? What do I want to be when I grow up? Who inherits my estate? Well, those are the easy decisions for me since they affect only me. Okay three of the four affect only me. And unless you’re in the running to inherit my only taxable asset—my Jeep—you have absolutely nothing to worry about. In contrast there are decisions I have to make that will affect other people and could be a little more complicated. And since it all comes back to me there is great potential some will be disappointed. How long do we require masking in church during a pandemic? Should we continue livestreaming mass? Should we cancel mass due to inclement weather? I know some people will be willing to forgive what can easily be seen as a lapse of judgement on my part and simply move on. On the other hand, there may be some who will burn it in their memory and hold it against me to the bitter end. That sounded grim. I certainly hope I haven’t gained that kind of notoriety.

At strategic points along the course of our lives, we will be chugging along nicely and suddenly we come to a fork in the road. If it was something we saw approaching from a distance, we could be well prepared. What do I do after graduation? What career do I pursue? Which lucky person do I choose to spend the rest of my life with? Not me, of course. Where would I find happily ever after? If you’re a planner, you won’t likely be caught unprepared. But on very rare occasions the fork in the road might offer a very drastic shift in direction and intensity. What do you do if you get an awesome career opportunity of a lifetime that was never even a remote possibility a moment before? What if a catastrophic turn of events quickly makes all previous plans utterly pointless or exceedingly challenging? Buy a winning lottery ticket? Get a devastating medical diagnosis? Come face to face with the crowning intervention in human history foretold by ancient prophecy that effects salvation for the world while your life is summarily terminated on an instrument of torture on some lonely hill. Yes, that’s where I’m going.

Last week in the gospel account of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the desert, he stood at the beginning of his public ministry. After his baptism in the river Jordan, Jesus is led in the power and wisdom of the spirit to discern his role in the Father’s plan to restore humanity to friendship with God and with one another. Three years he traveled throughout Galilee preaching repentance and driving out demons, cleansing lepers and healing the sick, feeding the hungry and inviting anyone who would listen to see with new eyes and hear with new ears. He could have kept doing just that for longer. But today we fast forward to Jesus on a mountaintop with three of his closest friends. And he is transfigured before them. Now all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention very similar details, namely that his clothing became dazzling white. Matthew and Luke mention a change in his facial appearance, which is another way of saying the experience gave him the clarity and courage and confidence he needed. But John leaves the event out entirely although he was himself one of the three actual eyewitnesses. So, we are left to figure out what really happened on the mountain.

Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. Jesus is seen conversing with them, which is a more descriptive image of how he must have spent many hours and much effort studying the law and the writings of the prophets before making a really big decision. Which was? To begin his journey to Jerusalem where he would be betrayed, handed over to his enemies, be made to suffer, be killed, and be raised. It was the most important fork in the road in the Father’s plan for him. He saw it coming and the decision was his alone. But it would forever change the course of human history.

This season of Lent each of us too comes to a fork in the road. This could be the moment we decide to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and accompany him in the work of reconciliation and salvation. He embraced his cross for the sake of all humanity. We embrace our cross for our own healing and transformation. And if we truly desire a significant transformative change this Lent, our road must lead to Jerusalem also. Or we find ourselves right where we started with nothing to show for come Holy Week. Do we take the fork in the road or do we ignore it once again like we’ve always done?

A mountaintop encounter with God in dazzling glory surrounded by biblical celebrities would be dramatic and memorable. But if we come down the mountain still essentially the same, then nothing really changes. We have one job this Lent—to emerge on Easter Sunday and every day a better human being, a healthier person, and a more Christ-centered Christian. Jesus takes the road to Jerusalem today to his passion, his cross, and his resurrection. How about we don’t let him walk alone.

Rolo B Castillo © 2022