God So Loves the World

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 28, 2021 – Second Sunday of Lent - Mark 9:2-10

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Today’s gospel reminds us of two things. First of all, in the end, all will be well. Not only will Jesus be “transfigured” as he once was, but so will we. To know and experience the details of that we will have to wait until after we die and go to that next wonderful place.

Second, before we can fully enjoy life after death, we must accept the challenges of living life here on earth. Although we may desire full happiness and bliss with God right now, we first have to live here on earth with all its joys and sufferings. Minute by minute, day by day.

The disciples who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus were quite amazed. I like the word, “dazzled.” Like those ‘better than average” moments of our life right now, we want the feelings of excitement and full satisfaction to last. We want permanent residence atop that mountain of bliss.

But Jesus is clear. We must first descend the heights to everyday life, although we should also keep our eyes on the prize, as Dr. Martin Luther King used to say. So, in the middle of Lent, which is our personal desert time, we accept our lives with a kind of binary vision. We live each day as fully as we can, valuing each passing moment. While at the same time, we look forward to life everlasting. And here’s an additional thought: God is present to us here and God will be present to us there. Now and forever. Like the ending to the Hail Mary prayer puts it: Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

When I was a vowed religious in the seminary years ago, I was told that I was “leaving the world” to live fully with God. While this idea had its appeal to my youthful idealism, I soon learned that the world came right through the door of the seminary with me. I eventually learned that the world was not all bad. In fact, I often thought of the gospel passage that began with the phrase, “God so loved the world.” Most Christians know the rest.

I also learned about the heresy of dualism. That some things in life were believed bad and some were good. For instance, that physical pleasure was evil – or at least, dangerous. Or that worldly activities, like partaking of delicious food and beverages, were to be mostly avoided. That the pleasure of friendship was dangerous. Or that one should be detached from material possessions. Eventually, I was taught a “both-and” understanding. That “the world” was basically good, although also somewhat flawed and incomplete. Both the mountaintop and the life on flat land were good. And important.    

©David M. Thomas, PhD                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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