Lent 02, Year B

Being transformed from glory to glory by the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18)

A friend of mine who read my reflection for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time disagreed "gently," she said, with my saying that at the last judgment it will matter that one was a bishop or a provincial visitor, or one built an important sanctuary or a big church, or one improved the economic condition of a religious community. She does not think it matters to God who we are or what position we have or what we have accomplished.

Assuring her that she could disagree with me not only gently but also strongly, I admitted to her that, indeed, God has no regard for a person’s status. But it does matter, I pointed out, what gift or talent or vocation or position one has been given by God; it is taken into account what member or part of the body one is and, surely, more will be demanded of a person who has been given more.

"I agree," replied my friend, "that more is expected from those who have more (gifts, resources, etc.), but I do not think it makes any difference at all to our loving God what we accomplish, only we act with love." And the more I think now about her argument, the more inclined I feel to agree with her, hoping too that in the end she will agree with me.

I agree: grace is grace, wholly unmerited, and it is not of our own doing or something that results from doing a good deed. Grace consists fundamentally in this: Christ Jesus died or, rather, was raised, and he also is at the right hand of God interceding for us. If grace were merited, it would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:6). So, I concur with Philip Yancey saying, "Grace means that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more; there is nothing we can do to make God love us less ...."

I also agree with the statement that what is of consequence is love, not what we can accomplish. I think St. Leo the Great taught something similar when he wrote, "Those who are equal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts." (cf. the text in Spanish [1]).

I must agree with my friend, for, otherwise, I run the risk of disagreeing with St. Irenaeus. He makes clear that it is not because the Lord in is need of our service that he commanded us to follow him. Serving God, says the saint, adds nothing to God, nor does God need the service of man; God receives no benefit from his followers since, after all, he is rich, perfect and in need of nothing ( cf. the text in Spanish [2]).

Now then, in accordance with what has just be said, I say that God has no need either of our sacrifices of rams, much less, of sacrifices of human beings. Nor do I believe that it matters to Jesus that we are present at his transfiguration. His transfiguration adds nothing to Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). As canonizations are--they are for us, says Father Bob Maloney--so is the transfiguration. [3]

So then, if God, or the Savior, gets no benefit from our sacrifices or from our participation, we, however, by serving God and following the Savior, do reap the benefits of salvation, life, immortality, and eternal glory, to use a few more of St. Irenaeus’ words. It matters to us to offer sacrifices because it is important that we have the faith of Abraham, our father in faith--a faith that is submissive, trusting and toughened by the fire of dilemmas and tests. It matters to us to witness the transfiguration so that, listening to the Father’s beloved Son and letting his face shine upon us, we may also be transformed in such a way that we learn to seek the authentic transfiguration in the disfigurement of the Son, who became obedient to death, an ignoble death, and whom the Father did not spare but handed over instead for us all. The transfiguration matters to us so that we may know to attain the dazzling light of dawn by helping the disfigured brothers and sisters of the Lord (Is. 58:7-8, 10). And it appears to me that those who have the priority in regard to being invited to witness the transfiguration are those in need of more transformation, people like the Zebedee brothers, who deemed themselves worthy of position of prominence, and Peter, who denied the Jesus.

Faith and works of mercy do contribute to our own transfiguration and to that of the least of the brothers and sisters of the Lord. Faith and works of love matter to us, then, and to the least of the brothers and sisters. And so, they matter, I believe, to the Father, and to the Son as well.

I hope my friend now agrees.