February 23, 2016
"Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem."
Last Sunday's Gospel passage on the Transfiguration is juxtaposed to the reading from the First Sunday of Lent of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert. How are they related? I'm going to steal a bit from Fr. Walter's homily two weekends ago, as it helped me make a road map for Lent this year. He asked us to consider (I'm paraphrasing here) how much time we spend "in the desert," committing to our Lenten penances and practices, and how much time we spend trying to escape the desert. He asked us to consider our temptations to flee, what they look like. There are certain moments that are genuine, good reliefs from the desert. Maybe a Lenten Sunday, maybe a warm feast with friends, maybe a play we've been looking forward to seeing. The Transfiguration, it seems to me, was a moment when the apostles were given a foretaste of the glory to come, unexpectedly, right in the middle of their road.
It is not a bad thing to take breaks from the desert, just as it was important for the Apostles to experience the Transfiguration, but we cannot live only for those moments, because doing so robs us of the lesson of trust that Christ wants to teach us in the desert. So we might consider today--what parts of Lent, or another spiritual desert, am I trying to escape from? Might God be trying to teach me something that I would rather ignore? When the going gets tough, do I get going by running away or by praying for help?
Pier Giorgio could have lived a life of escape. He could have stayed out of the difficult, the poor, the less fortunate. But his Christian convictions compelled him to do otherwise. In fact, if he had lived a cushy life, he might have lived longer and not contracted polio--but would he be a saint now? Would his life have been as full?
Today let's ask God for the strength to continue our Lenten resolutions (a strength that comes only from Him), and to desire to grow in virtue like our patron, Pier Giorgio.