It would be interesting to ask a group of people what they planned to give up or do during Lent. There would be some very impressive penances and some very great acts of charity. But underneath all those actions would be a penance no one would ever consider. They were going to stand still but move during the weeks of Lent, leading not to just Easter and a one day celebration but to a new way of living. That action is certainly present in the Sunday readings.
Abram is ready to move from a retirement community to a new adventure with a God, who he really does not know. For some reason known only to Him, God has chosen Abram among all people to become the father of a great nation, with his name becoming a blessing. For that to happen, he, along with his wife, must move. Where? They don’t know. God has not given any details. Yet, it does not seem to matter, since Abram answers the Lord’s invitation not with words but with his life, as he leaves behind the familiar and comfortable and journeys to the unknown. God travels with them while giving direction. It is up to Abram and Sarai to have faith, follow God’s lead, and keep moving.
During the journey, life gradually changes. God changes their names to Abraham and Sarah. They are expecting a son, that they name Isaac, which means laughter. Abraham comes to have a different outlook on life and people that comes from his relationship with God. The impact of God’s mercy and forgiveness is evident when Abraham bargains with Him to spare Sodom and Gomorrah even if only ten innocent people live in the area. This journey with God changes so much in the lives of Abraham and Sarah that it makes them new people.
Is it any different with Peter, James and John as they leave a mountaintop after seeing the glory and beauty of Jesus as He truly is, the Son of the Father? But there will be further movement from fear of acknowledging they are disciples of Jesus, to proclaiming Him as the promise of salvation. They move from trying to save their lives to laying them down because of their loyalty to Christ. They move, always move, into an ever deepening relationship with the One who promised never to leave them. They are no longer fishermen. They are apostles of Christ.
The lives spoken of in this Sunday’s readings are examples of the need to die and rise. That is the call of Lent. It is a time to change your mind and die to old habits, fears, sins, empty temptations and self. That is the Cross. But there is a rising to a new life that is rooted in Christ, leading to greater freedom and faith, along with a willingness to risk everything for the sake of the gospel and our Catholic faith to make the Lord know. All of that dying and rising is a movement, a continuous movement and conversion that becomes more intense in Lent, which makes us different. For those who are willing to listen to the words of life that Christ alone can offer, repentance takes place, which is moving from an old life to God.
Is that an easy Lent? No. Being uprooted and leaving behind what once gave comfort or pleasure is never easy. But the journey is not made alone, but with Someone who travels with us, even to the end of our days and beyond. The change will happen, most likely gradually, as it did for Abraham, Sarah, Peter, James and John under the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit. For our part, though, we need to listen carefully to the words of Christ and then start the journey to become the faithful people He always desired.