Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Threat to Transport

1st Sunday in Lent (B)

Picture: cc Jason Jones

Sisters and brothers, do you know how to transform something dangerous into something useful? Have you ever tried, for example, to cross the road in front of this church? What’s it like? It’s dangerous, right? Dangerous, because the road is very wide. And the traffic moves pretty fast. And there’s also a bend in the road. So the drivers can’t always see you. That road is a dangerous place. But what if you were in a car? Or a van? Well, then the situation changes. In that case, the road becomes more than just a dangerous obstacle. More than just a threat to your safety. With the right vehicle, the road is changed into a means of transport. A way to get you to wherever you need to go.

And the same would be true if the road was replaced by a fast-flowing river. The waters of the river are a dangerous obstacle. A threat to our safety. To swim across the river, we would risk being swept away by the waters. Or attacked by the animals that live in them. But if we were in a boat. Or on a raft. Then the river is transformed. From a place of danger to a means of transport. A way that takes us to our destination.

Sisters and brothers, when we are in the right vehicle, dangerous obstacles become precious means of transport. This is the lesson that our readings teach us on this first Sunday in Lent. In the first reading, Noah has just passed through dangerous waters. Not the waters of a river. But a terrible flood. A flood so severe that it has wiped out every living thing from the face of the earth. Everything, except Noah and those with him. They alone have survived, because they took refuge in the right vehicle. They entered the ark. Not only did the ark protect them. It transformed the dangerous floodwaters into a means of transport. Bringing them safely into the presence of God.

But it wasn’t just the ark that kept Noah safe. It was really the love and mercy of God. The love and mercy that moved God to teach Noah to build the ark. The same love and mercy that now leads God to make a Covenant with Noah and the whole of Creation. Promising that there shall be no flood to destroy the earth again. This Covenant now becomes a new vehicle for Noah, and all that come after him. A vehicle that transforms dangerous obstacles into precious means of transport. All that is needed is for people to remain true to the Covenant. To continue living in the love of God.

In the gospel too, we find someone in a dangerous place. After Jesus had been baptised by John in the Jordan, the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. Where he was tempted by Satan. But, somehow, Jesus manages to survive the danger. And not only does he survive. We’re told that he was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. The wilderness actually drew Jesus closer to God. And to the creatures of God. How did this happen? Was it not because, like Noah before him, Jesus continued to live in the love of God? Which became a vehicle for him. Transforming the wilderness from a place of danger to a means of transport.

And the wilderness is not the only dangerous place that Jesus enters. There is another. A place called Galilee. We know that Galilee is a dangerous place, because that’s where John the Baptist was arrested. And where he would be put to death. But Galilee is not just a physical location. It is also a spiritual place. The place where Jesus carries out the mission received from his Father. To preach the good news of God’s love for us all. And this is a dangerous thing to do. In carrying out this mission, Jesus will eventually find himself nailed to the wood of a cross.

And yet, for Jesus, Galilee is more than just a dangerous place. It also becomes a precious means of transport. A way to draw closer to God. And this happens because Jesus keeps travelling in the right vehicle. In all that he does, Jesus remains faithful to the love of his Father. And this love transforms the danger and destruction of Good Friday into the glory and resurrection of Easter Sunday. But that’s not all. The good news is that this transformation is not just something that happened to Jesus in the past. It continues to happen to each of us even today.

I’m not sure if you agree with me, sisters and brothers. But our world is a very dangerous place. And I’m not just thinking of those faraway places, like the Middle East and Ukraine, where deadly wars are still being fought. Even here, in relatively peaceful Singapore, the world can be a dangerous place. And not just because it’s possible to get knocked down by a car while crossing the road. Or to suffer a heart-attack while watching TV. Or to crash suddenly into the sea while flying from Surabaya to Singapore.

Our world is dangerous for us, in the same way that the wilderness was dangerous for Jesus. It is a place where we are constantly being tempted. Tempted to stray away from God. Tempted to set our hearts on things less than God. Not just obviously sinful things. But even apparently good things. Beautiful things. Things like a comfortable life and a successful career. There is nothing wrong with such things in themselves, of course. But it is possible to lose ourselves in them. To be so obsessed with working hard to get them. That we lose sight of God. And get swept away by the stresses and strains of daily living. What is more, the world is also dangerous for us the way Galilee was dangerous for Jesus. If we choose to remain true to the mission of Christ. To keep proclaiming the love of God wherever we go. Then it is likely that we will suffer. The world will reject us. We will have to walk the way that Jesus walked. The way of the Cross.

So what are we to do? Should we try to escape from the world? To escape from the wilderness? To escape from Galilee? No. That is not God’s way. That is not Jesus’ way. And that is not our way. The Christian approach to danger is not to avoid it. But to enter into it. Just as God called Noah to enter the waters of the flood. Just as the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And then into Galilee. By our baptism, we too are called by God to brave the dangers of our world. So that we can transform it. From a threat to our safety to a means of transport. A way that leads to God. And we can do this only when we travel in the right vehicle. The vehicle of God’s love shown to us in Christ Jesus. The same love that we celebrate at this Mass. The love of the one who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand. For it is only through him, and with him, and in him, that all our Good Fridays are transformed into Easter Sundays.

And isn’t this why we observe Lent? We enter the wilderness of prayer and fasting and almsgiving. Not to make ourselves suffer. Or to prove ourselves strong. But to take refuge in the vehicle of Christ’s love. Leading us into the presence of God.

Sisters and brothers, even now, God continues to change the dangers of our lives into a means of transport. What must we do to continue taking refuge in God today?

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, we live in a dangerous world - a godless world - a world who does not acknowledge You as the Living God - hence the world we live in seems upside down and very messy. Hence, it can be dangerous if we lose our lifeline in You as our Lord, our God and Our All.

    Lord, as I dwell in this secular world, as the values of the world which runs contrary to Your Values, may I ask You to keep me ever close to You and never let me be parted from You.

    On my own, Lord, I am weak and most vulnerable and I am ever so susceptible to the temptations that draw me AWAY from You, the Source of my entire life and being.

    O Lord, may I ask You to instil in me a deep desire that longs for You as my God, my Lord and my All.

    Please instil in me a spirit of prayer - a discipline that keeps me coming to you, and to sit at Your feet - to remain CONNECTED to you, throughout each day - instil in me a discipline to spend some moments of Sacred Silence - just to be with You, to dwell in Your Love.

    Come Lord Jesus - Maranatha - Come and make Your Home in me and keep me ever close to You and Your Sacred Heart, always.

    Sih Ying
    22 February 2015

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