Second Sunday in Lent at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Vita Consecrata, reads the story of the Transfiguration as being descriptive of consecrated contemplative life. The Transfiguration not only revealed Jesus’ glory, but prepared Him for the Cross. In short, it made Him receptive; able to live in the truth. His receptivity was His glory.
By contrast, in Eden Adam & Eve believed a lie. The lie was that we can gain control of our existence by some action of our own and that God does not want us to have that power. So we became acquisitive in preference to receptivity. Eventually, though, we came to the monastery and asked to be received: “Receive me Lord, according to Your word and I shall live…” He received us and in imitating His receptivity, we become receptive.
When Jesus came down from the mountain there was only one thing He could be certain of: the direction He wanted his life to go. When Jesus came down from the mountain and when He met the mob at Gethsemane, He completed a time of deliberation, of making a decision. His decision was for receptivity. Spiritual journeys -moral purposes- always begin with making a decision. Decisions are always about what means will achieve what end. Being certain of His direction, of His end, the decision had to be about what action to take and what conditions to allow. Deliberation touches only things that can be affected by our actions. If it is obvious there is nothing we can do, then there is nothing to decide. (Continued deliberation is called “worry”!) We take actions for the sake of something beyond the action. It is that for the sake of, that intention that gives Jesus’ and our decisions a moral or spiritual quality. That quality is called Christian character. That certainty of direction, which He freely preferred, guided His choice of actions. The conditions he would allow were whatever his foes decided. He was clear about His purpose. What He shows us here and at Gethsemane, is the power of purpose. When we know what we’re about, obstacles melt in our path. He received His purpose. So must we.
When Jesus came down from Mt. Tabor He decided to give His consent to the events He was about to undergo; He would do whatever they required. You see, when a man and woman are certain of their direction, they are certain of their purpose. It means they know what they have set their heart on; they know what they love most. They have adopted an aim as exalted as Christ’s: total discipleship. Jesus decided to squander His life on the Father.
When we completed novitiate, we, too, completed a time of deliberation. In imitation of Christ we make one decision; we set one purpose. We set it before we entered the monastery. It is tested in novitiate (and all the time after that!). It is a decision about the direction of our lives. When we, like Jesus, are receptive about the end or purpose of our lives, then all the decisions about means, about our actions, about how we shall live are also received.
The primary, guiding decision, though, is about a person. We make a decision about Jesus Christ, His Father and how we will relate to Him. Like Christ, we make an IRREVOCABLE decision. No future decision can be successful if it conflicts with that decision. The church asks this of us because it knows we are capable of it and that it is good for us. Such a decision is a form of co-operation with God’s action in our hearts. We imitate Christ, too, in deciding the conditions we will allow. We will allow situations over which we have no control, over which we will have no decision to make. We will do this for two reasons which we will learn on Palm Sunday.
At that time we will see that the more our identity moves away from our petty concerns toward an increasing devotion to Christ, the less reason we have to be defensive, frightened, or even affected by things that shouldn’t happen. And because of this irrevocable decision, this firm purpose, we find these difficulties to be occasions for looking to the Cross and remembering another certainty: we were saved by what shouldn’t happen.