It may help you to understand the events we hear about in the Gospels of Lent if you understand the basis geography of the Holy Land. The area of interest is mostly to the west of the system of waters which flows from the Sea of Galilee in the north, down the Jordan River, and ends up in the Dead Sea. Places like Nazareth, Capharnaum, and Genesereth-the places where our Lord grew up and lived His early adult life, are clustered around the Sea of Galilee, which was also called the Sea of Tiberius (after the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Cæsar). Bethlehem, where our Lord was born, and Jerusalem where the Temple was located and where our Lord celebrated His Last Supper and was crucified are in the south-generally north-west of the Dead Sea. Our Lord’s Baptism, of course, took place in the Jordan River, which runs north and south to connect the two major bodies of water. Mount Thabor, where the events of today’s Gospel took place-the Transfiguration-is in the north, just a little below our Lord’s home town of Nazareth.
While a fair amount of our Lord’s public life was spent in and around the Sea of Galilee, there is a certain urgency in His speech, as, on several occasions He announced to His disciples that it would be necessary to go down to Jerusalem where the Son of Man would be crucified. And as we have seen, Peter and the Apostles tried to resist this idea, but our Lord was quite firm-these things must happen-they were, ultimately, His reason for coming into the world.
It is tempting for us to center our observance of the Catholic Faith around the more pleasant events in the Gospels. The events of Christmas time are remembered nostalgically by all Christians; most of us are thoroughly impressed with our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount and with His feeding of the multitudes with but a few loaves of bread. This event of the Transfiguration is, of all, the most glorious, as Jesus becomes radiant in the presence of Moses and Elias, and God the Father Himself approves of Jesus’ mission: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased....”
But again, our Lord’s reason for entering human history has to do with our redemption, and with His demonstration that the consequences of human sin are terrible enough to demand His death on the Cross. This reality may not be as pleasant as contemplating the baby Jesus in the manger, but it is essential to our growth in the spiritual life and ultimately to our salvation. It is the mark of an adult-both in secular life and in the spiritual life-to face reality and come to grips even with the things which are not so pleasant.
The Stations of the Cross are a good way putting one’s self in the picture with our Lord as He gave His life for us. There is something to be said for the physical act of moving from one Station to the next, and of going down on one’s knee at each. So, please do try to make the effort to be with us for the Stations on Friday evenings. You can make them privately if you are here a few minutes early for Mass on the other days of the week. If nothing else-even if you cannot come to church, you can read them in your prayer book. Likewise, the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary will be of great benefit.
If you are able to attend daily Mass during Lent, please do that. One of the benefits of the Lenten Masses is that you will hear the scriptural accounts of the events which begin with our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and continue through His passion, death, and resurrection. But, even if you are unable to attend Mass, these readings are available to you in your daily missal or in the Gospels themselves.
In the epistle, Saint Paul exhorts us to “make even greater progress ... for the will of God is our sanctification.” He urges us to give up the immorality and the lust of the world. But that is not always easy. We may not be very great sinners, but somehow it is hard to give up the attachments to sin that we do have. It is easy for venial sin to become habitual, and for us to develop the spiritual laziness that will only lead to going backwards in the spiritual life. So every year we are asked to make this season of Lent; to meditate on the sacrificial love of our Lord for us, and to be inspired by the events of His passion.
While it is tempting to remain at the manger in Nazareth, or on the mount of the Transfiguration, we must go down to Jerusalem where our Lord will be mocked and spit upon and nailed to the Cross for our sins. It is only by going with Him to the Cross that we can begin to understand the terrible nature of our sin; it is only through the Cross of Jesus Christ that we can die to sin and join Him in the resurrection to eternal life.