Today, Catholic Christians celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent.
Once again, we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17: 1-9).
In the story, Jesus takes three of his apostles – Peter, James, and his brother John – on a mountain to pray. While they were there, suddenly Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Then, Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament appeared and began talking with Jesus.
At the appearance of these long-dead Old Testament figures, Peter thought maybe the apostles should honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah equally. However, just as they were saying that, God the Father spoke from a cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17: 5).
The apostles fell prostrate and were afraid, but Jesus told them not to fear. Suddenly, the apostles were alone with Jesus, for Moses and Elijah had disappeared.
The Transfiguration story is filled with symbolism, and all of the symbolism leads to the moral of the story. Moses represents all of the Old Testament law, and Elijah represents all of the Old Testament prophecies. Their disappearance reminds us that with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, the law and prophecy have been fulfilled. Now, all we need is Jesus. Now, we should not take out eyes off of Jesus, and we certainly should never be distracted from serving him.
Although catechists and others have taught Christians to follow only Jesus, sometimes Christians get distracted. Before commenting on that, though, let’s look at the story of a young woman named Ellen. She had a dream, but because she took her eyes off of her goal, the dream died.
For as long as she could remember, Ellen wanted to become an actress. She had the beauty, and she had the desire. She even had bit parts on the New York stage. She dreamt, however, of one day making it big, but her chances of that happening were almost nonexistent.
One day, however, a writer for a magazine called the Saturday Evening Post saw Ellen in one of her bit parts, and he liked her right away. Fortunately he had connections in the movie industry.
The writer contacted his friend in Los Angeles and arranged for Ellen to fly to the West Coast for an interview. Ellen was ecstatic. She immediately went out and bought a whole new wardrobe and all the necessary accessories. This was, after all, the beginning of new, exciting, and glorious career. Her dreams were about to come true.
Finally, the day for her to leave for the West Coast arrived. After saying good-bye to her family, she bent down to say good-bye to her pet dog. In his excitement, the dog put out his paw and accidently scratched her a little bit on one of her cheeks. It didn’t matter, though, for a little makeup could cover the scratch.
After arriving at Los Angeles International Airport – LAX – she discovered that her luggage was lost. Needless to say, she began to get worried, for all of her beautiful new clothes that she had bought were in the luggage. To make matters worse, the man who was supposed to meet her in the airport was late. Finally, the man showed up, but by then, Ellen had begun to cry she was so upset. On top of that, the scratch her pet dog had made had become infected.
Between the crying and infection and a lost wardrobe, Ellen was in no mood to see anybody. The movie people were very kind to her, and they tried to calm her down. They said, “Look, go back to your hotel room, get yourself together, and then come back. These things happen, so don’t worry.”
Well, Ellen did not come back. Instead, she took a train home. When she got home, she retreated into herself and fell under the protection of her doting widowed mother. Ellen refused to see anyone, and she began to gain a lot of weight. But, remembering how her father had died of obesity, Ellen went to the other extreme and went on a starvation diet.
Ellen became nothing but skin and bones, looking like a survivor from a Nazi concentration camp. When friends recommended to Ellen or her mother that Ellen would benefit from psychiatric care, both would become highly insulted.
Ellen died from starvation, surrounded by plenty of food in the house. She once had a dream, but she lost sight of it. And she never tried to recapture it again.
When we hear sad stories such as Ellen’s, we may be tempted to say, “Well, that is very sad, but it could never happen to me. I am a faithful Christian, and I would never take my eyes off Jesus. I will always be a faithful disciple.”
Well, I hope that is true for you. But I can tell you that millions of people have taken their eyes off Jesus. Distractions that they encountered in life derailed them.
Some get derailed by significant others who lead them away from the Church. Materialism distracts some, and before they know it, they find they no longer have time to devote to their Faith. Priests or other religious figures sometimes hurt people, and out of anger and hurt, the wounded people leave their Faith, failing to distinguish earthly leaders from their religion. So before thinking you are too strong to every take your eyes off of Jesus, be careful. Probably those who left their Faith once thought the very same thing.
As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on your Faith. How strong is it? What possible distractions might show themselves in your life, leading you away from Jesus?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Second Sunday of Lent, 2017.
Story source: Dale Francis, “Ellen,” in William J. Bausch (Ed.), A World of Stories for Preachers
and Teachers, Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1998, #70, pp. 215-216.