Second Sunday of Lent

March 17, 2019 | Delores Dolezal, OSB

“This is my Son, listen to Him.” Perhaps it is today’s Gospel that inspired Benedict to use ‘listen’ as the first word of his rule. As Benedictines, we are encouraged to “listen and incline the ear of our hearts.” Lent is a time of deep listening. Listening is hard work. In Benedict’s 3rd step of humility, we realize that to listen is to obey. It is in listening that we have the opportunity to obey one another, to have an open ear, an open heart, and even the possibility of understanding another’s point of view. When my Mother died and the Sister I lived with in Papillion made the decision to retire, that left me alone. This was a time of deep, terrifying listening for me. Personally, I did not want to leave Papillion. I had a song in my heart which I wanted to finish singing. My aging Father, who never wanted me to enter the convent, wanted me to stay close to home. Now I felt like I was adding salt to his old wound. I discerned with my prioress; shared with a spiritual director; and made a private retreat. I did move on. When I went to Seneca it did not get better. I held onto my faith and in my affliction, I kept praying: “Lord, why am I here?” Last Sunday while listening to the reading of Sister Judith’s: The Vinedresser’s Notebook, I realized that I had experienced the need and gratitude for a strong taproot. She wrote: “We have to be always reaching and searching, pushing energy down as well as up. If not, when the surface conditions are not sufficient to sustain us, we will quickly starve.”

Listening is not always deep and difficult. I like to think there is also a ‘sweet’ listening. Who of us is not sustained by the words of Scripture? “Have mercy tender God forget that I defied you.” And, “In my body, I shall see my Saviour.” I remember how Sister Alverna would take my hand and say: “Thank you for being my friend with Jesus, with Jesus, with Jesus.” I appreciate Irene’s words: “To remember is to make present.” Perhaps right now you are recalling words of our Sisters, your parents, friends, or former students. We can treasure these words because we listened.

We are now at the beginning of the 2nd week of Lent. We might be weak-hearted, discouraged, and ready to give up. This 2nd Sunday of Lent is to give us courage. We can do this. We need to get Lent right: Listen. That is what the voice from heaven tells us. Believe. Abraham put his faith in the Lord. Be faithful to the struggle. Paul encourages us to “…stand firm in the Lord.” All three Scripture readings offer us hope. This hope, nourished by prayer, fasting, and the Eucharist, is what gives our ‘taproot’ the drive to move us down and up for our arrival as citizens in Heaven.

Sister Verna Holyhead wrote: “What gives life is faith and love. Every disciple in every age has to learn what Peter, James, and John learned on the mountain of the Transfiguration: following Jesus is not about comfort and security, but about daring to hammer the tent pegs of our lives into the mystery of Christ, with a readiness to strike camp and move on when he calls.”

Recently I read of a father who listened to God’s call and moved on. He grieved the death of his young son. Out of his grief came ‘hope’. He designed a headstone for his wheelchair-bound son. In this headstone, the son is seen as “free of his earthly burdens”. This is “Transfiguration. Like this father we ‘move on’ in our transformation, and in God’s time we will be transfigured. The words of the apostle John gives us hope: “We shall see Him as He is.”