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“For us, our homeland is in heaven…” Philippians 3:20
Most of us, I suppose, if not all, have spent some moments of frustration at an airport waiting for our luggage to arrive. What is particularly annoying, I find, is to get off a short 50-minute flight and then have to wait for nearly half an hour at the baggage claim. That’s why I find air travel a lot less stressful – when I can travel light and just bring a carry-on. But what does this have to do with our liturgy today? I would suggest that the readings today tell us to “Travel Light”, to realize that we are pilgrims on earth; we have no lasting home here and don’t really need that much for our stay.
How suitable, then, that the man featured in the first reading – Abraham, our Father in faith – lived his life out of a gym bag. Abraham was a nomad, a wanderer who allowed God to map his way through life and who responded repeatedly to God’s direction in faith. Indeed, God’s first words to Abraham were to “Go forth from his Homeland, to a land that God Himself will show him.” It was a call for a dangerous departure from all that was familiar and secure – a gamble. But the promise was of a land of Abraham’s own, of descendants beyond counting and of a lifelong companion for the journey who would be none other than God Himself.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds his audience that they are “Citizens of heaven.” His beloved converts from Philippi have become engrossed in the things of the world and Paul wants to correct their course – so he clarifies for them where their true home really is. And in the Gospel Jesus feels the need to let the apostles know – in particular, his three close friends Peter, James and John – that life involves more than what they see daily, more especially than the agony they are going to encounter in the weeks to come.
This Transfiguration event is placed, in Luke’s Gospel, right after Christ’s prediction of His arrest and crucifixion, and we can only imagine what a heartache that must have been for those closest to him. So Christ, here on Mt. Tabor, gives them a glimpse of His glory to let them know that their suffering will not be in vain and that better things await them all.
The season of Lent is a good period to take the time to glimpse the glory, to remind ourselves of our real home in heaven and the future that awaits us. Lent provides us an opportunity to redefine our values, to readjust priorities and to unpack all the extra baggage that slows us down on our journey towards eternal life. Some of us have memories – from soccer or rugby long ago – of coaches yelling at us from the bench, “Don’t just stand there – do something!” In Lent, the proper advice is just the reverse, “Don’t just do something – first, stand there!” Stand there and think about where you are going and the few things that you really need to arrive safely.
Fr Odinaka Nwadike, Associate Pastor