Sunday, March 16, 2014

Revolution in Revelation

2nd Sunday in Lent (A)

Picture: cc Andrew Currie

Sisters and brothers, I don’t know exactly when it happened, but some time ago I began to notice a quiet revolution taking place right before my eyes. Right here in tranquil Singapore. Some of you may have noticed it as well. Don’t worry. I’m not talking about a military coup or a violent uprising. The revolution I’m referring to has to do, not with the raising of weapons, but with the buying and selling of durians.

Some of you may still remember how, in the old days, the durian-seller would pry open the fruit just wide enough for you to catch a glimpse of what was inside. If you were lucky, he might also let you stick a finger into the fruit and have a taste. But, as long as that little opening did not reveal any rotten or worm-infested bits, you were expected to pay for the fruit he had opened. Which made buying durians a risky business. Especially if you weren’t very experienced. For there was nothing to prevent a dishonest fruit-seller from hiding the rotten portions, and showing you only the good parts. All the while promising you the very best.

In recent times, however, things have changed. These days, for some reason, fruit-sellers have taken to opening up their durians completely. And packing the little yellow nuggets in transparent plastic wrap. So that now you know exactly what you’re buying. No more painful surprises when you get home. What you see is what you get. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that there is still, of course, a price to be paid. But now you pay it more willingly. With greater confidence.
What do you think, sisters and brothers? Isn’t this a revolution in how durians are bought and sold? A radical shift has taken place. From concealment to revelation. From anxiety to confidence. From having to rely only on the promises of the seller to being able to see for yourself what it is you’re paying for.

I bring this up not because I want to make your mouths water. But because I think a similar revolution is taking place in our Mass readings today. Not a durian revolution. But a spiritual one. Notice how, both in the first reading and in the gospel, God invites certain people to do something difficult. To pay a price of some sort. In the first reading, God asks Abram to leave your country, your family and your father’s house. Which is difficult enough to do. What makes it even more difficult is that God doesn’t actually tell him where to go. Abram is asked simply to move. And God will show him where to go later.

In the gospel too, God asks the disciples to do something very difficult. Referring to Jesus, God says, This is my Son, the Beloved... Listen to him. Which may, at first seem easy enough. Except that, at this point in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is actually on a journey. He is making his way to Jerusalem. Where he will be tortured. And put to death on a cross. And then raised up on the third day. Not only that, but a few verses before the ones we heard read, Jesus had given his disciples this instruction: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. This is what the disciples are being asked to do. This is what it means to listen to Jesus. It is to renounce oneself. To take up one’s cross. And to follow him.

Clearly, both in the first reading and in the gospel, God is asking people to do something difficult. But God doesn’t do this only to see people suffer. The discomfort that God is inviting people to endure is actually a price that has to be paid in exchange for something good. Something beautiful. Something sweet and tasty. Much like how people have to pay a price to enjoy delicious durians. And it is here, between the first reading and the gospel, that we find a revolution taking place.

In the first reading, God deals with Abram in much the same way that durian-sellers used to deal with their customers. Abram has to pay a price. He has to uproot himself and set out on the journey. But without actually seeing what he can expect in return. All he has to rely on is God’s spoken promise. I will make you a great nation...

In the gospel, on the other hand, something has changed. Like Abram, the disciples are asked to pay a price. They have to follow Jesus to the cross. But, unlike Abram, the disciples are given something more to rely on than God’s spoken promise. The disciples are given an experience of what Jesus will look like after he is raised from the dead. In the gospel, what used to be hidden in Abram’s day, is now brought fully to light. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, like a durian having its contents openly displayed in a transparent box, Jesus the Son of God, the Word Made Flesh, God’s Promise Fulfilled, is revealed in all his glory. The disciples are shown exactly what it is they are paying for. Exactly what they can expect. If only they listen to Jesus. If only they renounce themselves. And take up their cross. And follow him. Like him, they too will be transfigured.

Between the first reading and the gospel, then, a revolution has taken place. Something hidden has been brought to light. And it is this same revolution, that Paul writes about in the second reading. This radical change from concealment to revelation. From relying only on spoken promises to being shown exactly what to expect. Here, as in the other readings, there is something difficult to be done. A price to be paid. With me, Paul writes, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News. But do it not on your own strength. Do it by relying on the power of God. On the strength that God provides. The grace that had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time. Granted to us in a hidden way already in Abram’s day. But has now been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus.

As with durians, so too with Christ. Something that was hidden has now been revealed. Something that was present only in spoken promises is now shown to us in the flesh. And it is shown to us for a specific reason. So that we will receive the confidence and strength to endure hardship. To take up our cross. To pay the price. In the sure hope that what we are buying is truly worth far more than the price we’re paying for it.

All of which should help us to deepen our appreciation of what we are doing in this great season of Lent. Through our spiritual discipline, as we recall the life, death, and rising of Christ, we are joining the disciples on the Mountain of Transfiguration. Feasting our eyes on the glory of Christ. Remembering what awaits us. So that we can have the confidence and the strength to bear the crosses that life places in our path. Crosses not of our own choosing. Crosses we cannot change. Crosses in the form of difficult people. Or challenging situations. Crosses that can crush us in despair. Or harden us in anger and resentment. But only if we let them. For these same crosses can also lead us to glory. If we but bear them in love. As Christ did before us.

Sisters and brothers, I think those fruit-sellers did a very shrewd thing in bringing about the durian revolution. By showing people exactly what to expect, they gave them confidence in paying the price for good fruit. How is the experience of Christ’s glory giving you the confidence to pay the price for good spiritual fruit? How are you being given the strength to carry your cross today?


  1. He said in Isaiah Chapter 44 "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior."  

    Our Lord is always carrying out His Healing in the most invisible ways that unless, we take courage to believe Him, we will not see it and experience it.

    Peace, Zita

  2. O Lord, grant me the GRACE and COURAGE to carry my cross like You enter through the NARROW DOOR.

    May I have the same courage as St Veronica.- to dare to oppose the opinion of the CROWD and do what is right.


    Seeing IS Believing
    16 March 2014 3.15pm


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