Second Sunday of Lent (B)

When the famous and great painter Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece The Last Supper, he selected a gentle and kind young man named Pietro Bandinelli to sit for the character of Jesus. Over twenty-five years passed before da Vinci would finish his painting. One by one he chose models to portray the disciples. The last character to be painted was that of Judas Iscariot. As da Vinci searched the streets of Rome he came across a man whose shoulders were far bent towards the ground. He had an expression of cold, hardened evil. The man seemed to perfectly match the artist's conception of Judas. When they returned to the studio, this man, who had abandoned himself to every vice, began to look around as if he was recalling incidents of years gone by. Finally, he turned and looked half-sad and said to da Vinci, "Master, I was in this studio twenty-five years ago. At that time I sat for the figure of Jesus."  This man was Pietro Bandinelli[1].

I wonder how different we are now from what we were ten or twenty or thirty years ago. I wonder in that journey we take from our youth through the process of aging how much of the darkness of the world has overwhelmed our lives and hearts. How many have struggled with drinking too much, eating too much or spending too much? How many have become bitter and overly critical because they have been cynical in life and in love; cheated, as it were, from what they thought their life would or should be? How many feel so exhausted that life has become nothing more than a hopeless carousel that never stops? How many have experienced disappointment because their lives are far less than they might have hoped, and love feels far more distant than they might have ever guessed? How many hearts are filled with anger and resentment because of the ill health, or even the death, of someone they love so very much? All of these experiences, as well as those we cherish, have become our homeland. They are the place in which we dwell. And, this season of Lent God calls us to leave this land in which we dwell, this land of habit and attitudes, or anger and frustration, or of hopelessness and fear. God calls us to be like Abraham, God calls us to faith.

When we hear the word faith, we usually understand it to mean a set of beliefs, or dogmas, or laws that we need to follow. Well, it is not. Faith is an experience that affects the essence of who we are. It overwhelms us as it overwhelmed the disciples of Jesus on the mountaintop. Faith causes us to view the world differently; to realize that the world does not belong to me, or even to us. It causes us to see that life is not given to me for my pleasure and gain, or because I have earned or deserve it. It is given to me so that I can find joy in serving others.

God calls each of us to leave behind the bitterness and the disappointment that we feel, the anger and the refusal to forgive, in order to be transfigured, transformed, by the love of God whose care for us is without limit.

Faith is not always easy. Faith is a matter of trust and not of mathematical surety. Faith is a risk. Faith is a matter of the heart. Perhaps then we need to remember the words of the fox in the book, The Little Prince, who teaches the boy that it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye[2].

In this season of Lent it is our hearts that are called to learn once again of God's love for each of us, for all of us. It is God's love –amazing grace - that calls us to move forward into a land that God promises will be filled with all good things.

The voices of the familiar -of what we are leaving- will be strong and powerful. It is only by keeping the promise, Jesus, before our eyes and in our hearts that we will find the strength to venture forth on a journey of faith ■

[1] The Last Supper (Italian: Il Cenacolo) is an original mural by Leonardo da Vinci executed between 1495 and 1497. It is on the wall on which was painted originally, in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan (Italy). The painting was created for his patron, Duke Ludovico Sforza of Milan. Not a traditional fresco, but a mural executed in tempera and oil on two layers of plaster preparation stretched over plaster. It measures 460 cm. high by 880 cm. wide. Many experts and art historians consider the Last Supper as one of the best paintings in the world
[2] Chapter 21. The Little Prince (French: 'Le Petit Prince'), first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944). 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris