2nd Sunday of Lent
Saint Margaret Parish
February 24, 2013 9:30 and 11am
There is a story that back in the nineteenth century, some tourists were passing by the famous mansion of the Rothschild family in London.
These tourists noted that on one end of the mansion, the cornices and exterior wall were unfinished. They wondered why this was so since the Rothschilds were one of the wealthiest families in Europe.
The explanation is interesting. Lord Rothschild explained that he was an orthodox Jew and according to Orthodox tradition, the house of every Jew was to have some part left unfinished.
Why? To bear witness that the occupant of the house is like Abraham, in a sense unfinished, a person on a journey with no lasting home on this earth.
Life as Circle
That practice helps us to appreciate today’s Scripture readings.
It helps us to realize that we are all on a journey. About ten years ago, I read a book entitled The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill.
Cahill states that up until the time of Abraham, ancient peoples viewed life as a circle. They believed that what had happened in the past would happen again in a continuous circle.
They also believed that everything was determined by heavenly powers. And so, our task was to meditate on the ceaseless, circular flow of life.
We were to do this until we came to peace with this and with our own death as part of that great circle. Now, as I said, that was the ancient view of life, but one of the gifts of the Jews was that Abraham changed this way of thinking.
Life as Journey
The background to today’s first reading is that Abraham has listened to God’s call and set out to an unknown land.
He sets out on a journey and ever since then the way to look at human life is as a journey. This change of outlook now means that there is much more to life than the past simply repeating itself.
Now there is the possibility of a different future and we have responsibility for creating it. The Old Testament also reveals that this journey is not just from one country to another, as it was for Abraham and Moses.
It is not just an outer journey, a journey outside me. Instead, it is primarily an inner journey, a journey to our inner self where we can find God.
It is a journey of becoming one with God and becoming more and more like God. In the long run, it is a journey back to God.
A Journey with No Tents
This understanding carries right over into Christianity.
The gospels consistently show Jesus on a journey to Jerusalem. They also call us to see our lives as a journey and they add an important caution about this.
The caution is that we have to resist the temptation to pitch our tents, in other words, to stay put. In today’s gospel, Jesus will not let Peter do this because he knows that there is still a lot of the journey ahead and a lot of work to do.
The question is: how might we find ourselves pitching our tents today? We might be doing this when we say things like: “This is the way I’ve always done it.”
Or, “This is the way I learned it and have always understood it.” Statements like these might be saying that we are closing ourselves off to looking at things differently or doing things differently.
For example, we can pitch our tents in the understanding of ourselves. Maybe we just turn off any comment that calls us to examine our attitude or way of speaking about certain persons or groups of people.
We can also pitch our tents in the understanding of our faith. Maybe we resist understanding faith as primarily a relationship with God that is to grow and deepen – a living relationship instead of just a static list of truths.
The point is that like Peter in the gospel, we need to resist the temptation of pitching our tents. This is what the Season of Lent that calls us to do – to keep growing, to keep on the journey of life.