Carrying out resolutions can often be the greatest challenge to our willpower. When we decide on a project or choose a goal, we can be excited and anxious to accomplish it, but once we need to put in the hard work day after day, our excitement fades. Looking down the long road ahead, we lose sight of the goal and our resolve disappears. This is often a Lenten experience as well, and something we may experience now as we begin this third week. We want to hold onto our fervor and excitement, and yet they fade as we realize that we have a long way to go to Easter. As much as we know our discipline in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will pay off, it’s a struggle.
In today’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John, are given a glimpse of the glory they’re promised, of their goal, and they too don’t want to let it go. As Christ is transfigured in glory, Peter is overwhelmed and goes so far as to ask if they can remain, setting up tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. And yet the moment comes to an end, after which they begin their journey toward Jerusalem where Christ will take up his cross. Peter, James, and John are given a taste of what they’re promised, though it will only follow a long road of suffering for them as well. They will need to carry their own crosses before they can experience the Resurrection. But Christ assures them – “Do not be afraid.” He will help them remain strong.
Our journey of Lent is similarly a journey to the cross on Good Friday. It is a long journey, which is not meant to be easy, but along the way God sends us moments of joy, glimpses of Easter Sunday, that remind us why we must persevere. And as much as we want to stay in those high points, we must move on, we must accomplish what we’ve been called to do. How true can this be for so much of our lives beyond Lent. Following the joy of a wedding or ordination day, the daily challenge of living out one’s vocation only just begins. The joy of a newborn infant is followed by many sleepless nights. The excitement of beginning a new class or a new project is overcome by the labors of bringing it to completion. Moments of joy keep us going, but our eyes must always remain trained on the greater good we seek to accomplish.
Abraham’s story only reaffirms this reality. God continually promises His blessings, gives Abraham glimpses of what is in store for him, but still challenges him to leave his homeland and all attachments. As difficult as the road may be, God asks him to trust. “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” Abraham put himself completely in God’s hands, perseveres, and a great nation arises from his descendants. He puts his trust in God’s mercy, moreover, knowing that he will falter. We too trust God and rely on his mercy, knowing our weaknesses will betray us, knowing we will rely on our own strength and fall short, and yet also knowing Christ will forgive us and give us his strength to continue.
Therefore we are given the challenge: “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Like Abraham, like the Apostles, like Christ, we must bear our burdens without flagging, relying not on our own strength but God’s. As much as the struggle may hide the goal from view, we can never forget the joy we’re promised. In every death, there’s a resurrection, in every sacrifice we make, there’s a gift of love which we can offer at the Mass as a small act of gratitude for all we’ve been given. In whatever challenges we face, whether in our Lenten practices or any of the speed-bumps life puts in our way, we put our trust in God, we put our hope in those glimpses of joy, and we persevere in love.