TRANSGIFURED BY LENT AND PENANCE
Brothers and Sisters,
The readings this weekend are, as always, very important; however, to begin to understand their importance, we need to understand how to learn by the figurative sense. To speak figuratively is to communicate a reality by presenting an image that implies that reality. For example, in sports a team might say that they with “crush” their opponents or that their goal is to “destroy” the other team. Now neither of these are true in a literal sense; rather they are meant in a figurative way – attempting to say in a provocative way that they will win the game or match.
Maybe you’re already thinking about the nearly countless phrases that have been popular and are still commonly used figuratively in common parlance; here’s some that come to my mind: bury the hatchet, time flies, no sweat, it’s freezing in here, my head was spinning, and I’ve said it a million times. These phrases are figurative because they communicate a reality by way of hyperbole, simile, metaphor, personification, or symbolism.
Figurative communication can be a bigger picture as well – which brings me to the first reading for Mass this weekend. Almighty God calls upon Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as one at the time would sacrifice an animal to the Lord. Then, mere sentences later, God seems to change His mind about the whole idea. While this whole situation did happen, its meaning is not literal. An incorrect (but literal) interpretation of this event would be to conclude that God Almighty might inexplicably ask me to hurt a family member and then suddenly change His mind. The meaning, rather, is figurative: God was showing Abraham and all of us in this figurative way that one day He, God Himself, would sacrifice His own Son.
The Gospel, interestingly, is quite different but still reveals the truth. In His transfiguration, Christ reveals a truth that had been obscured by His humanity. A greater reality is briefly revealed: that Christ is not merely human but also divine. His humanity had been covering the fact that His is also God; His human figure was hiding the divine.
The famous “giving up” things for Lent is to help us reveal what we are meant to be: sacrificial people who are looking to a greater reality. We recognize that the goods of the Earth are not as great nor as real as the things of Heaven. Recognize this as we pursue our penances of Lent; we are giving up a lesser good to reach for something much better. Don’t let the goods of Earth keep you from Heaven.
God be near,