Lenten Reflections: Second Sunday of Lent
Reflection by John Glynn, STM’11
Reflection by John Glynn, STM’11
A Heart Hollowed Out
by William Breault, S.J.
A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can’t be filled again except by emptying it out.
In order to fill anything, there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can’t receive.
This is especially true of God’s word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it,
emptied of the false self and its endless demands.
When Christ came, there was no room in the inn.
It was full. The inn is a symbol of the heart. God’s word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.
Natasha Lopez, '15, used this piece by Fr. Breault, S.J. on a retreat recently to start her talk entitled “How to Decide How to Love.” She went on to say that her knowing how to love others starts with knowing that she is loved – something we sometimes forget in the day-to-day of busy work, deadlines, and performance reviews (or in other words for students: grades). Before she can allow love and acceptance of herself to take root through all the muck, she has to do some hollowing out. I don't think she's the only one.
Today’s readings for the second Sunday of Lent (Genesis 12: 1-4 and Matthew 17:1-9) interestingly juxtapose two scenes: a scene of Abraham's ultimate act of fidelity in Genesis with a scene of the Transfiguration in Matthew's Gospel. At first glance, I wondered how these stories fit together. On the one hand we have Abraham, who is asked to demonstrate his obedience to God by sacrificing his son Isaac, and on the other we have Jesus' disciples witnessing the transfigured humanity of Christ. Both are beloved sons, and both are being invited to show fidelity: Abraham's fidelity to God, and God's fidelity to us. So how does this help us to move along through our journey of Lent?
I think Natasha was on to something with the idea of hollowing ourselves out, and perhaps our readings today invite us to consider the ways that we need to hollow out spaces in our hearts in order for love to grow. In Genesis we see a perfect example of what is referred to in Ignatian spirituality as dispossession – a detachment from created things in order to become more attached to the Creator. Abraham needed some hollowing – not that his willingness to sacrifice his son meant he loved his child any less, but that his love of God is always first, and his love for his family - Isaac, Sarah and even himself – all flow from his primary love of God.
In the Gospel, we perhaps see the fruit of utter dispossession and the primacy of God's love – Jesus standing transfigured before his disciples, a vision of what all of creation is promised because of God's fidelity to us. When God is our first love all things alight with the fire of that love, or as Thomas Merton would say, we would all be ‘walking around shining like the sun.’
As we enter into the second week of Lent, let's consider what we may need to detach from, be dispossessed of, in order to allow God's love to take firmer root in our hearts.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
~ Transfiguration by Edwin Muir