How’s your Lent going? I have a confession to make – I ate ice cream Thursday – I know, I know, I gave up sweets for Lent but – well – it seemed justified at the time….but I wish I had better will power.
Anybody else having trouble? I heard something this week which gave me another perspective – we are SUPPOSED to have trouble keeping our resolutions. Really – if we DON’T struggle – if we get through Lent Easily, then we’re not doing Lent right. In order to gain the fruits of this time of penance, we have to feel the weight of the cross – and the main thing we’ll learn is that we CAN’T do it. If we rely solely on ourselves to persevere through Lent, we will fail – but that teaches us perhaps the most important lesson of all: we ALL need a savior. We all need Jesus to take part of the weight of the cross we voluntarily pick up.
Why do we do this? We are being changed – transfigured – like Christ. But before we can be glorified, we must carry our cross.
So – if you’re having an easy Lent – step it up a notch – don’t leave your cross standing in a corner. If you’re having a tough Lent, congratulations – get back up and pick up that cross again but rely on Jesus standing right beside you helping to carry your cross.
What’s the point of the Gospel – the Transfiguration? Matt, Mark, and Luke all tell us this story – so it’s obviously important – but Luke gives us a detail the others omitted. It says, ‘while he was praying’… Big deal, right – Jesus prayed all the time – why is this note-worthy? Because Prayer was the context for when he was transfigured. It was in prayer that he would light-up. It was in prayer that he was changed. It was in prayer that he was glorified. It was in prayer that he conversed with the law and the prophets – connecting himself with the roots of the Faith.
This is what can happen to us through prayer: It can light us up – we can connect with the law and the prophets…most importantly, it can change us. In the second reading it says, ‘He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body ‘ for us – God promised to glorify US as well – but how do we tap into that Glory? By following Jesus’ example – go to a private place and pray.
I know – sounds too simple - but that’s the genius of Christianity – tapping into the very depths of God’s promises is as simple as raising our minds to God – allowing His Word to light us up.
Does that happen to you and me? Do we ‘light up’ when we pray? I’ll admit, most of the time, I’d have to say ‘no’.
Perhaps if we all had a clue just how big God’s promises are to us… maybe then we would shine like Jesus did. How big are the promises? God tried to give Abram an idea by saying – see the number of the stars – and count them if you can – just so will your descendents be.
If you were to stand outside on a particularly clear night away from all the city lights, you would be able to make out around 6000 stars. Is that how many descendents Abram was going to have? Take a guess for yourself how many stars there are… go ahead, pick a number.
In his show Cosmos, Carl Sagan stood on a seashore. He reached down and scooped up a double handful of sand.
He said – if you counted the number of grains of sand in his hands, it would be close to the number of stars that you could see with a naked eye on a clear, moonless night. But he made the claim that there's at least one star for every grain of sand on planet earth. Think of the billions of trillions of grains of sand in the world's sandboxes, beaches, and deserts.
Impossible… No way, people said… There's just no way that can be true.
And they were right – Scientists now know that there are at least 10 stars for every grain of sand on our planet. And since we likely haven’t seen the whole universe yet, even that number may be low.
For example – Y’all know the Big Dipper – if you just look at the scoop part of the dipper, Astronomers have so far identified more than five million galaxies lying just within that little square part of the sky. Think about that – just that small part of the sky has 5 million GALAXIES, each of them having 100-400 billion stars. We can’t even imagine a number big enough to count all the stars.
Who cares… well I do. This show that God’s blessings are more than abundant – or even super-abundant – it says that God’s blessings are not just un-countable…. But His promises are beyond our wildest imagination. God made a promise to Abram that his descendants would be more than the stars…. Let it baffle your mind that when God makes a promise to you, he will fulfill it beyond your wildest imagination.
And you can count on that.
*special thanks to Glenn McDonald, Director of Mission Integration for the Ascension Ministry Service Center in Indianapolis, Indiana for the inspiration/information about the stars.