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Covenant, Example, Transfiguration

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 9:28b-36

Today's reading from Genesis is a reminder of the eternal covenant of God, symbolized by the ritual sacrifices and Abram's mystical vision of the brazier and flaming torch passing between the sacrificed animals which had been cut in half. This was a common way that solemn agreements were ratified in the ancient Middle East, with the contracting parties passing between the halves of the sacrifice as a witness of their faithfulness. Here God is reminding Abram -- and his spiritual descendants today -- of the certainty that is associated with the covenant of God with humanity.

Paul, writing to the Philippians, urges the Church to follow his example of faithfulness to God. He notes that those who are enemies of the Cross have their bellies as their god. They listen to the conventional wisdom of their era, rather than the words of God and choose the razzle-dazzle of instant gratification instead of obedience. And Luke records a most dramatic episode in the ministry of Jesus in ancient Palestine. Christ is transfigured and is seen talking with Moses and Elijah.

From these readings we can learn much about justice and peace.

First, we are reminded that God is a sure and faithful partner. He will keep all of his promises to us, without exception. If we follow God's laws, we will be blessed. If we are disobedient, we will reap the consequences of our actions. And since Ash Wednesday, we've seen how important justice and peace are in terms of "commandments". This reading isn't given to us in isolation, but rather, in "community" with the other readings of the day and week, within whose context it must be understood.

Second, we are again warned of the dangers of listening to the conventional wisdom and yielding to instant gratification and the "madness of crowds". Sure, Bishop, close down that school, abandon the inner city, costs are high, benefits are low, the money can be better spent elsewhere, such as in the suburbs or in buying new decorations for your Cathedral to go with its golden dome. How do we know the enemies of the Cross? By their actions. They are the ones who do not feed the hungry, do not clothe the naked, do not shelter the homeless, and refuse to be reconciled with their neighbors. They are the ones who whisper, "Their needs are endless and they are undeserving. It's their own fault that they are poor. They are lazy, demented, and ignorant."

Third, materiality is not the totality of reality. Generally invisible to our temporal eyes is the spiritual reality, which can instantly transform a humble Jewish carpenter into a triumphant Lord of the Universe. And who was it that Jesus was speaking with? Moses -- the hero of the spiritual and temporal liberation of Israel from bondage in Egypt -- and Elijah, the fearless prophet of God who did not shrink from bringing God's word to the rich, the powerful, and the mighty. May the Transfiguration live today in the lives of each one of us so that we may see all that is around us with new vision.

Prayer intentions today:

+ For the Church as a human institution, that it will be just in all of its actions.

+ For those who are victimized by unjust actions of the Church as a human institution.

Praxis today:

+ How much do you know about the justice of the activities of your local parish and diocese? Are inner city parishes funded adequately? Are Catholic schools in poor areas supported by the diocese? Is there justice for the children of poor Catholic families at your local parochial school? Does your parish and diocese bank with a financial institution that has socially just policies regarding community reinvestment? Ask yourself questions appropriate to your own area and resolve this week to find out the answers (or at least, begin the process of finding the answers).

+ Participate fully and completely in the Mass that you attend this weekend. Listen to the readings, sing the hymns and service music, meet your God at Holy Communion.

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