The key concept to the propers of the Second Sunday of Lent is that of “remembrance”, for the concept appears multiple times asking God to remember something. At first blush, the idea of God remembering something is absurd. To God, all moments are past, present, and future. To us, remembering is simply a past event, a recall if you will. When I remember the birth of my daughter, I think back to today, one year ago, at 8:20 in the evening. The concept of time as we know it doesn’t exist to God. Are we ascribing human concepts to God, or is something deeper going on?
To arrive at a greater understanding of “remembrance”, let us think of other times we entreat God for certain favors. When we say in the Our Father “Hallowed be Thy Name”, what are we asking? St. Cyprian of Carthage tells us:
After this we say, Hallowed be Your name; not that we wish for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we beseech of Him that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God sanctified, since He Himself sanctifies? Well, because He says, Be holy, even as I am holy, we ask and entreat, that we who were sanctified in baptism may continue in that which we have begun to be. (St. Cyprian, On the Our Father, paragraph 12)
In short, when we ask something about God’s nature, we ask that His nature be made present to us. When the Introit asks “Remember, O Lord, Thy bowels of compassion, and Thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world”, we aren’t under the impression that God can forget to be merciful. Rather, we ask that God’s mercy be made present in our lives. We ask for this mercy because without it, “at any time our enemies rule over us.” Without God’s mercy being constantly present in our lives, sin would be our master.
The reality of sin is why Daily Mass is always a good idea, but especially so during Lent. During Lent, we are constantly reminded of our frailty, hoping that by this reminder, we will seek out God’s mercy and trust that His guidance is better than anything we can offer. When we ask God to make his compassion present in our life, we are asking God to make His will a reality within our life.
The reality of God’s will is spelled out at length in the two readings. In the Epistle, St. Paul tells the Corinthians what the will of God is:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God: and that no man overreach nor circumvent his brother in business:
This returns us to the continual theme we have seen in Lent: how fasting must be connected to our behavior. While we cannot be saved because of good works, we also cannot say Christ has saved us with a straight face if we neglect them. After this admonition St. Paul also reminds us that “the Lord is the avenger of all these things.” If we have neglected any of our duties, Christ will call us to account for it.
Why does all of this matter? The Gospel demonstrates the importance of all of this via the Transfiguration. At the height of the mountain of God, Christ’s Apostles not see many things. They see Christ as he was truly meant to be seen: a divine being whose true home was heaven. They also see Moses and Elijah at his right hand and left hand, a position that denotes superiority. Moses was the great lawgiver of Israel, and Elijah her greatest prophet and both of them were subservient to Jesus of Nazareth. They also hear a voice from God that Jesus is His Son, and we should hear Him.
What does Christ being divine have to do with our conduct? If we remember, through baptism, we receive a share of the divine life Christ has by his very nature. St. Peter even says that we become “partakers of the divine nature.” Our good works are evidence to the world of that divine nature. We are representatives of Christ, and our actions actually impart Christ to this world. Can Christ be imparted through lust or dishonesty?
Another important part of the Transfiguration is that the Apostles got to know Christ as He truly is. Only by knowing Christ as He truly is can any of this stuff be possible. A lot of people claim to know Christ, but they don’t know Him as they should. They don’t see a divine savior; they see a good teacher, a moral man, but not the Savior and the one who makes our destiny possible. Today’s liturgy wants us to see Christ for who he is.
All of these facts help us to put that call to remembrance in a new light. When we ask God to remember his compassion, we are asking God to make that compassion present in our life. What is he making present? He makes present Jesus Christ, and He gives us the ability to know Jesus as Christ was meant to be known. When you take communion into your heart this Sunday, remember that. As the priest places the Host on your tongue, you are receiving Christ, and at that point He dwells within your soul in a special way, the way He was always intended to dwell.