Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
We’ve seen the ads on TV for financial planning companies. One financial planning company has a green arrow appear on the floor and directs people in the right path on how to plan for their future. Other companies that promise guidance for securing a comfortable retirement use images of senior citizens enjoying travel to exotic places or seniors having conversations with their adult children on a deep-sea fishing boat explaining how they can afford such luxury in their later years. The message, sacrifice a bit now, have a vision of what is possible and your future will be bright!
But then there’s the fast talking lawyer type who reads at an almost unintelligible speed a cautionary message. This company’s prospectus might lead you to believe these are the results you might reasonably expect, big returns for little investment, BUT “past performance does not guarantee future results.”
In a way, the readings of the second Sunday of Lent in Cycle C are the sales pitch of God for the future livelihood for humanity. The story of the Transfiguration is almost a kind of commercial for how you can trust God’s management of the investment he’s made in humanity by taking on flesh in Jesus Christ. “Here’s the plan,” God says, in the imagery of a bright shining, glorified Jesus standing between two major prophets on a high hill — “Trust me: stick with this discipline of sacrificing the self, sacrificing your life for the sake of others and you’ll have results that transform the very way you live (exist). The decay of death, the gloom of disease, the pain of suffering that dulls human senses to the bright beauty of eternal life will give way in Jesus to the eternal light and life of God’s dwelling on high. The prophets Moses and Elijah are testimonial witnesses of God’s faithfulness. The prophets on the scene are the references that assure the apostles that they are on the right path for securing their future where God will bring the disciples of Jesus to a new place of life.
The apostles are going to need that assurance of faithfulness in the midst of, shall we say, the “down or bearish market” of the passion and crucifixion. The apostles don’t want to sacrifice, they want the best of life, now. “Let’s stay and set up camp in this great future!” But you can’t live in the future and you can’t get to the promised bright future without the valley of death, that Jesus says they must return to.
St. Paul says the same thing about wanting a fuller life without the sacrifice of the Cross when he says of people without the vision of the Gospel,
Their God is in their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
People tend to focus only on the now. They tend by nature to want only immediate gratification. Perhaps that’s a result of our being born in original sin. It’s the voice of the evil one, tempting us to give up on a vision that there is more to living than satisfying our self in this moment only. As Christians we’re invited to plan for the future, to believe that we already are sharing in the future rewards in the here and now, when St. Paul writes,
Our citizenship is in heaven.
By Baptism we’ve entered into a contract (actually something even more binding, a covenant) with God. He promises to give abundance of life, we promise to practice self-sacrifice conforming ourselves to the image of Christ that we are baptized into, letting go of immediate gratification and satisfaction of the self in order to have a life beyond our imagining. The contract has been signed in blood. In the Hebrew scripture story of Abraham it’s the blood of animals, (the party that breaks this covenant is dead!) In the New Testament blood of Jesus is the name on the line. God promises that for him, this is a matter of life and death. It is for us, too. And, the Blood of Jesus’ death becomes the sign of God’s power to bring about the future he hopes for us. Blood is life! We renew the contract, the covenant each time we drink the cup at Mass!
The Gospel we believe doesn’t have fast talking disclaimers about risk. The story of Jesus Christ is clear. There is risk, but a guarantee death leads to life. Letting go of self assures a future of eternal life. In other words, Past performance DOES predict future returns in the economics of the Kingdom of God!