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02/18/2005
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God's grace is shown in his Son
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni

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The Good News for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Feb. 20, 2005
Genesis 12:1-4a
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Matthew 17:1-9

If you could be God for a day, you'd probably spruce things up. You'd put an end to world hunger, terrorism, childhood diseases, tsunamis, and drug abuse. You might even do away with ice storms, mosquitoes and the designated hitter rule. Or, if you were God, you might forget about others altogether and just buy yourself a winning lottery ticket. Don't laugh - a national survey last December asked people their number one hope for the new year. Given a choice between a jackpot or world peace, most people chose a jackpot.

If you could be God for a day, you'd like to think you could do a better job. Too many young people get terminal illnesses. Too many dollars are spent on selfish pursuits. Too many car accidents claim innocent lives. Too many children don't know their fathers.

We expect God to fix things. After all, Jesus does this time and again in the Gospels. Leprosy? He can heal that. Blindness? He can open eyes. Hemorrhage? No problem. OK, how about death? Yes, on several occasions Jesus raised the dead to life again.

If Jesus has this kind of ability, shouldn't he use it at every opportunity? He helped people in his own day. Surely he could help us too. And not just every once in a while. Why not put an end to illness, deception, malicious speech and the heartbreak of psoriasis?

Our expectation of God comes from the abilities Jesus demonstrated throughout his life. But God does not always protect us from evil or undo what is wrong. Jesus didn't either. He cured many, but not everyone. He raised some from the dead, but not all. His miracles got people's attention, but they were aimed at converting hearts. They demonstrated his power to do something beyond what we could ask or imagine - something beyond the grave.

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we hear a Gospel passage about the transfiguration of Jesus. In a private moment, he shows a few of his disciples a glimpse of his glory. The ministry of Jesus was not simply aimed at the sick. He wants to bring us all to glory.

This year, to prepare us for the transfiguration story, the second reading for the Second Sunday of Lent presents another image of who Jesus is (2 Timothy 1:8b-10).

The Second Letter to Timothy is generally regarded as a late work within the New Testament. Although tradition assigns the letter to St. Paul, its vocabulary suggests it may have been written by Paul's followers a generation later.

The opening chapter establishes several themes, including the significance of Jesus Christ, whose coming is proclaimed. The letter says that God bestowed grace on us in Christ Jesus before time began. Long before we were born, we already enjoyed the grace of God's favor in Christ. Isn't that wonderful to think about? That ancient grace was made manifest in the coming of Jesus. He destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

These verses are chosen for this Sunday because they proclaim that God's grace was "made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus." Jesus made his mission manifest in many ways, but uniquely in his transfiguration, when he revealed his glory to his closest disciples.

God made grace manifest in the appearance of Jesus. Remember that when you think about how different things would be if you were God. You'd probably make grace manifest through a host of other miracles, but God chose a select few, including the transfiguration. The letter says God saved us "not according to our works but according to his own design." So even though we might have a different design on how things should be, God is saving us according to his own design. God's design isn't always our preference, but it follows another kind of wisdom.

All this makes the first line of this reading stand out: "Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God." The Gospel does not erase hardship. It gives us a way to endure it.

If you could be God for a day, you might do it differently, but God chose a beautiful way to do it. Into a world filled with hardship, God made grace manifest through the appearance of Christ Jesus. Jesus revealed his glory through the transfiguration. In the glow of that revelation we receive strength to endure our share of the hardship that accompanies those who love the Gospel.

Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron.

END


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