Second Sunday of Lent – A

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        “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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GN 12:1-4a

The LORD said to Abram:

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk

and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation,

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you

and curse those who curse you.

All the communities of the earth

shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 59 In order to gather together scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred and his father’s house,1 and makes him Abraham, that is, “the father of a multitude of nations”. “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”2

CCC 145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel’s ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham’s faith: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”3 By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land.4 By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.5

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.6

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.7 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,8 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”9 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”10

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.11 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.12 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”13

CCC 1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless.14 Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).15

CCC 2570 When God calls him, Abraham goes forth “as the Lord had told him”;16 Abraham’s heart is entirely submissive to the Word and so he obeys. Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God’s will, is essential to prayer, while the words used count only in relation to it. Abraham’s prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey. Only later does Abraham’s first prayer in words appear: a veiled complaint reminding God of his promises which seem unfulfilled.17 Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God.

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.18

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”19 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”20 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”21 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”22 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.23 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

1 Gen 12:1.

2 Gen 17:5; 12:3 (LXX); cf. Gal 3:8.

3 Heb 11:8; cf. Gen 12:1-4.

4 Cf. Gen 23:4.

5 Cf. Heb 11:17.

6 Cf. Gen 1-26.

7 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

8 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

9 Cf. In 11:52.

10 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

11 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

12 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

13 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

14 Cf. Gen 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pet 3:9.

15 Cf. SC 79; CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.

16 Gen 12:4.

17 Cf. Gen 15:2 f.

18 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

19 Zeph 3:14,17a.

20 Rev 21:3.

21 Lk 1:41, 48.

22 Lk 1:45.

23 Cf. Gen 12:3.

APPLICATION

God’s mercy and love for us men is the first lesson this call of Abram should teach us. Over 3,800 years ago God began the proximate preparations for opening heaven to us. He converted the pagan Abram and got him to leave his idol–worshiping family, kinsmen and country. He set him up in Canaan and promised him a great posterity with numerous descendants, who would eventually possess that land. His purpose in doing this was to preserve the knowledge of the true God, and continually enlarge on that knowledge, until the “fulness of time” and the fulness of his knowledge would come to all men in the Incarnation.

The story of God’s infinite patience in his dealings with the descendants of Abram, as narrated in the Old Testament, is another convincing proof of his infinite love for us. Only infinite love could have persevered in the face of the stubborn hard-heartedness, repeated ingratitude and infidelities of his Chosen People. But infinite love prevailed; a remnant of that people was preserved until the promised one, the Messiah, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, came on earth.

Another lesson which every Christian should learn from the call of Abram, is that each and every one of us, no matter what our state in life may be, is called like Abram to preserve the knowledge of God in our own life, and to do all in our power to bring that knowledge to our neighbors. Some are asked to leave their home and their country and go to a land that God chooses for their apostolate. These are the missionaries, who are called on to do more than the rest of us. Their task is more arduous; their vocation makes greater demands on human nature; but God is with them and their reward is great.

But those of us, the vast majority of Christians, who are not called to the mission-fields, are still called to the apostolate. Every one of us has the call and the obligation to share his knowledge of God with his neighbors. We are adopted sons of God, true sons of Abram. We are a small part of the whole human race which God wants in heaven. As he looked to the Chosen People of old to help him in bringing eternal life to all nations, so he looks to us now to continue the same divine task.

The Incarnation has made all men sons of God, brothers of Christ and true brothers of one another. Am I really a brother of Christ if I have no interest in the true welfare of my neighbor, my brother? If I shrug my shoulders and say that I have enough to do to try to get to heaven myself, without having to bother with my neighbor, this is a sure sign that I am not trying to get to heaven. If my Christian life does not include the good example of true Christian living, a word of advice for a brother who needs it, a daily prayer for the salvation of all my fellow-travelers to heaven, I am not on the road to heaven myself.

Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine my past conduct in this regard. Christ suffered and died on the cross to open heaven for all men. He rose from the dead–“the first-fruits” of the millions of those who will one day rise from the dead and enter into a new and everlasting life. That some, and maybe many, of my fellowman will reap the reward of what Christ did for them, will and does depend on my true charity. If I fail in this duty, if I turn a deaf ear to this Christian vocation, I am gravely endangering my own participation in the eternal happiness won for me by Christ.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Our soul waits for the LORD,

who is our help and our shield.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

READING II

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2 Tim 1:8b-10

Beloved:

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,

not according to our works

but according to his own design

and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,

but now made manifest

through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,

who destroyed death and brought life and immortality

to light through the gospel.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”1 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.2 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.3 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.4

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.5 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.6

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”7 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”8 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”9

1 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.

2 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.

3 2 Tim 1:9-10.

4 Cf. AG 2-9.

5 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

6 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

7 Jn 18:37.

8 2 Tim 1:8.

9 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

The old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” can be true of spiritual as well as material things. We Christians often so take our faith, with all it means for us, for granted, that we fail to appreciate it as we should. If St. Paul felt it necessary to remind Timothy, his faithful co-worker, of vigilance, how much more necessary are his words of exhortation for each one of us today!

Even the holiest of us can get into a rut and forget what our real purpose in life is. We were created by God and given marvelous gifts to make our way through this life, This is already something for which we should be most grateful. But, as God saw, what good would 90 or 100 years of happiness be for a human being on this earth, if he would have to leave it all and end as a little pile of dust in a cemetery?

So, the all-wise and all-loving God decreed that we should not end in the grave, but that instead our real life would begin after our physical death on earth. We would be taken into the eternal life of the Trinity, through the privilege of adoption, which the Incarnation would earn for us. This is the basis of our Christian faith and hope. This is the end and purpose of our Christian way of living while here on earth. This end and purpose we should never forget.

It is true that we have many earthly occupations and concerns, many passing sources of worry and distraction, but these should not, and need not be a hindrance in our daily cares and crosses to lift us up above our earthly status. We must make them aids on our journey, rather than let them be impediments. To do this, we must never forget the plan God has for us. We must never forget what the coming of Christ in our human nature means for us. He has “abolished death” and brought us immortality. Physical death is no longer to be feared; it is not the end for us but the beginning, provided we do the relatively little that is expected of us.

Are we all doing the little that the Christian gospel demands of us? Don’t wait until tomorrow, or next week, to give yourself an honest answer to this question. There may be no tomorrow, no next week, for you. Thank God, that you have today, use it as if it were your last day on earth. It will be the last day for over 100,000–you could easily be one of that large number.

GOSPEL

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MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,

and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them;

his face shone like the sun

and his clothes became white as light.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,

conversing with him.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

Lord, it is good that we are here.

If you wish, I will make three tents here,

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, behold,

a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,

then from the cloud came a voice that said,

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;

listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate

and were very much afraid.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

Rise, and do not be afraid.”

And when the disciples raised their eyes,

they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

Jesus charged them,

Do not tell the vision to anyone

until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.1 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.2 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.3 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,4 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”5 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.6

CCC 554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”7 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.8 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,9 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.10 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”11

1 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.

2 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.

3 Jn 3:18.

4 Mk 15:39.

5 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

6 Jn 4:9.

7 Mt 16:21.

8 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

9 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

10 Lk 9:31.

11 Lk 9:35.

APPLICATION

This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three principal Apostles to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our lenten mortifications. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in his sufferings, we shall be sharers with him in his glory as St. Paul reminds us.

This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of his infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not partaking in God’s scheme for their eternal happiness.

And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently–the man who is firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?

Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God’s goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.

Christ has asked us to follow him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare.

Let the thought of the Transfiguration encourage each one of us today, to do the little God demands of us, so that when we pass out of this life we may be assured of seeing Christ in his glory, ready to welcome us into his everlasting, glorious kingdom.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9: 7). When one has the grace to sense a strong experience with God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives “on Tabor” while on earth. Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God… This is the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in the word, preserved in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of the wind,

Depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth,

Firmness of the rock.

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me

Afar and anear,

Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today

Against wounding

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through the mighty strength

Of the Lord of creation.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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