Second Sunday in Lent
2 Timothy 1:8-10
Our readings on this second Sunday of Lent tell us that Faith is a journey – a journey of trust.
In the first reading, we hear God asking Abram to trust him and set out on a journey to where the Lord will lead him. He must leave all that is familiar to him – his home, his family, his people – for a promise that God will make of him a great nation and that his name will be used as a blessing. The promise was for a future he would not see.
In the second reading, Paul speaks to Timothy about bearing the hardships of the faith journey, again for the sake of a future he will not see realised in his lifetime. The Kingdom is a promise for the future.
In the Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James and John on a journey up a high mountain where he shows them a glimpse of His future glory. Understandably they want to stay there, but Jesus brings them back down the mountain and hints at the hardships of the journey ahead with his death. Perhaps He revealed His glory to them to give them the courage to persevere in the journey with faith.
This is what makes us human. We are the only animals that have the ability to create and nurture a higher purpose. This higher purpose will, of course, act in concert with some of the deeper drives within us. A teenage boy or girl, for example, who devote themselves to gruelling hours of athletic training have a higher purpose that directs them to rise before dawn, in order to practice for a race. The promise is that excelling at the higher purpose will gain them immense status and opportunity.
In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl tells the story of his experience during the Second World War. He was a psychiatrist and had his practice in Vienna. As a prelude to the war, Germany annexed Austria, and Victor Frankl, his wife and family, were sent to the concentration camps.
Because he was medically trained, he was put in charge of the camp infirmary, which was a joke as there were no medical supplies. The infirmary was built next to the gas chambers which were next to the crematorium. Outside the Nazis had planted beautiful gardens so that the people would be kept calm as they went to the gas chambers, being told they were going to have a shower. Also, to keep people calm, the Nazis had put together a camp orchestra to play beautiful classical music as people went to their deaths.
Victor Frankl’s wife had been the lead violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and so was made part of the camp orchestra. Every day, as Victor began his day in the infirmary, he would wait for the camp orchestra to begin, and would listen for his wife’s playing. As soon as he heard it he knew she was still alive and that kept him going.
Then one day, the camp orchestra was sent to the gas chamber. It was at that moment that Victor Frankl had to decide whether he would live or die. He had seen others give up and quickly die as a result.
He says in his book that he doesn’t know what made him decide to live. He tries to explain it along the lines that if he let himself die then all the suffering and loss he had gone through would have been meaningless. He had to survive in order to find meaning in his suffering.
And he did! At the end of the war the camp was liberated, and he was still alive. After he was rehabilitated, he moved to the United States and opened a clinic there where he pioneered a new form of therapy called, “Logo Therapy” – coming from the Greek word, Logos, which means ‘meaning.’ His therapy was based on his conclusion, born of his experience, that a person can go through the most traumatic circumstances, and not only survive, but thrive, as long as they can find meaning/purpose in their suffering.
This is what makes us human. This is what the faith journey offers us. Through it we not only can survive what life throws at us but thrive.
Fr. Ray Sanchez CP is the leader of the Oxley community and responsible for Parish Missions and Retreats throughout Australia and NZ.