We look to the light of the resurrection
By Father Paul Turner
Key Scripture Columnist
The Good News for the Second Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 2, 2007
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17 - 4:1 or 3:20-4:1
The moon was full on the night I arrived at Kampala, Uganda. My friend, Father Aloysius Kasoma, picked me up at the airport and drove along the main road toward the town. We weren't going far that night - just to a nearby convent where we would spend the night before going to see the parish where Aloysius worked. Streetlights were scarce, even along the main road.
Aloysius turned the car up a side road leading to the convent. It wasn't much of a road, but it brought us to a guarded gate. Aloysius explained who we were, the gatekeeper unbarred the entry, and we drove into the convent grounds.
At least, I presumed it was the convent grounds. I couldn't see much of anything at first. There was no light. The electricity had failed. The sisters didn't know how long the power failure would last. But they seemed matter-of-fact. They'd had this problem before. They produced two gas lamps to light the way to our rooms. But even without the lamps, my eyes were beginning to adjust to the world around me. I could make out the shapes of buildings and plants invisible only moments before.
"The moon is full tonight," Aloysius said. "You see what a difference it makes in this part of Africa." He was right. "We really need it," he said. In a place where people cannot afford electricity and where it sometimes fails if they can, the moon was bright enough for us to see forms, bright enough to cast shadows. You could find your way. You were not completely exposed to danger. "I wish it were full all the time," Aloysius said.
I suspect the writer of Psalm 27 had the same appreciation for light. Writing in a pre-electrical age, the psalmist would have prized the light of a full moon and awaited the glorious rising of the sun at the dawn of another day. When searching for the right metaphor to proclaim the goodness of God, the writer gets to the point in the first line: "The Lord is my light and my salvation." That is the refrain of our responsorial psalm next Sunday.
The psalm opens and closes in confidence: "Whom should I fear?" and "I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord." The singer makes these proclamations to anyone who will hear. But in the middle, the psalm addresses God less confidently. "Have pity on me. Hide not your face from me. Cast me not off."
We sing this psalm on the Second Sunday of Lent because of the light radiating from the transfigured Christ in the Gospel. Normally, you can expect the responsorial psalm to echo some theme from the first reading. But sometimes it looks forward to the Gospel. This also happened last week: In Luke's account of the temptation, the devil quoted Psalm 92, so we sang it after the first reading. This week's Gospel does not quote Psalm 27, but the psalm's first verse perfectly captures the Gospel's theme of light. God is light, it says, so when Jesus appears as light in the Gospel, we understand immediately grasp Luke's intent to proclaim the good news that Jesus is God.
Consequently, Christians pray Psalm 27 as if it concerned Christ. Jesus is our light and our salvation. Of whom should we be afraid? We say to him, "Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me."
The psalm concludes with this striking belief: "I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living." As Christians we pray this with a belief in the resurrection that the psalmist could never have known. In fact, in Hebrew, that line is incomplete: "If only I were certain of seeing the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living." The sentence just hangs there, perhaps in awe, perhaps in doubt.
Christians, though, have no doubt. We look to resurrection, and we spend this Lent in hungry anticipation of our annual celebration of that Easter faith. Easter falls each year on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring. A full moon also occurs 29 days earlier, around the time of the Second Sunday of Lent each year, when we hear the Gospel of the transfiguration.
"I wish the moon were full all the time," my friend Aloysius said to me. It will be - on the day we see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.
Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron.