Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 2nd Sunday of Lent

March 7, 2004
Gen 15:5-12, 17-18 • Phil 3:17-4:1 • Lk 9:28-36

Matching Face and Heart

In our ordinary conversation we use the word face surprisingly often. We may say that somebody had a long face. I did not really know what that expression meant till one day I met a fellow priest who had been robbed of his suitcase. While bargaining with a taxi driver about his fare someone else had walked off with his bag. You should have seen his face as he told the story - it seemed a meter long. Normally, our faces really tell what is inside us.

If we say that someone is 'double faced' we imply that they are dishonest or false in their relationships. It is a very serious accusation to make about anyone. If we say that someone is faceless we mean that they hardly seem to exist. The truth is that we have many faces and this is a natural part of being a human being. At different times we wear the face of: happiness or sadness, courage or fear, peace or unrest, hope or despair, joy or pain, friendship or hostility. This is all very natural.

Sometimes we are afraid of 'losing face,' of being made to appear bad before others. In the Philippines smooth interpersonal relationships (SIR) have a very high value which often makes us hide our true feelings to avoid offending others. We can wear the smile that covers the pain. We can wear a mask. While wearing a mask may sometimes be socially necessary it is very unhealthy as a permanent condition. The word sincere come from the Latin words sine and cera, which mean without wax. It comes from the time when actors wore masks made of wax to cover their true faces. Hiding our true selves not only makes us false people but also makes us sick people. It can cause high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers as well as headaches and allergies.
St. Luke tells us in today's Gospel that as Jesus prayed on Mount Tabor 'the aspect of his face was changed.' He was transfigured before the eyes of his three disciples and they were overcome with joy. This was to be a beautiful memory that would sustain them in the more difficult times ahead. The face Jesus showed on Tabor was indeed a very special one but not his only one. Christ had all the faces that we have, except the false ones. His face often betrayed weariness as when he fell asleep in the boat. It showed disappointment when the Nazarenes rejected him and when the nine lepers failed to thank him. It showed compassion when he saw the people who were like sheep without a shepherd. It showed sadness when he cried at the grave of his friend Lazarus.

On Tabor Christ gave the disciples a glimpse of his inner glory. He was the New Moses - the new law-giver. He was the new Isaiah - the one who spoke the word of God. He was the Word made flesh, the God who had come amongst us, in whom the Father was well pleased. On this occasion the true nature of Jesus showed on his face. This memory was necessary to sustain their faith when he went through his passion.

The face of Jesus always showed who he truly was. On Tabor he was the divine Son of God; in Gethsemane he was a frightened human being whose face sweated blood as he was denied even human companionship. To be Christians we are called to be who we truly are; God touched but frail. Sometimes we have a glimpse of our being God touched. More often we are all too aware of our frailness.

In meditation we sit still just saying our prayer word. We are in no way trying to manipulate or control reality. We are trying to be with and face reality; the reality of our giftedness and the reality of our sinfulness. We are allowing the image of God in our hearts to emerge and show on our faces and in the actions of our hands. This is our Christian task at all times but especially during this period of Lent.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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