Off to a Holy Place
Second Sunday of Lent (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Summer is approaching in the Philippines. This is the time of the year when we plan our summer holidays. Perhaps, it could be a week-end at the beach or a few days in the mountains and the countryside. Since the season of Lent coincides with the summer, some families also use this time to visit shrines and join Lenten activities in other places.

Action starter: Find a sacred space.

Among some devotees of popular religiosity, the holy season of Lent, particularly the Holy Week, is the time to go to a holy place and perhaps gain some mystical powers by observing some secret ritual.

The sense of the holy is deeply ingrained in the Filipino psyche, especially in less urbanized areas. There are sacred times and sacred places as well as sacred objects and sacred persons. Any disrespectful behavior towards the holy may lead to incurring “gaba” or divine punishment.

Due to the influx of a more secular environment, this sense of the holy seems to be disappearing. Churches are noisier. They have become places for gossip rather than places for prayer. Sacred objects such as icons of saints are stolen from churches and sold. Sacred times are unnoticed. Good Friday is just another day to go to the beach. The aura of holiness seems to be missing in some persons considered to be sacred .

The readings this Sunday speak of sacred encounters that happened in high places. Abraham was tested by God to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountain (Gen. 22). The second reading is a comment by Paul on this event (Rom. 8:31b-34). In the Gospel, .Jesus took Peter, James, and up a high mountain and there they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mk. 9:2-10).

In the bible, sacred encounters usually happen in high places, such as Mt. Horeb (Abraham), Mt. Sinai (Moses), Mt. Tabor (Jesus’ Transfiguration), and finally the mountain of Calvary (the Crucifixion). These high places have sacred significance. They are places that mark sacred events in the lives of persons whom God consecrated.

The season of Lent is a good time to create a holy space where a meeting with God can take place. It may mean literally going off to a mountain for a retreat or a recollection. The teachers of the spiritual life in the early years of Christianity, otherwise called the Church Fathers, preferred to go to the desert. There in silence and isolation they sought to overcome the forces of sin in themselves and even literally fought off the devil. After years of isolation, the wisdom they gained made them great spiritual directors. St. Anthony of the Desert was one of them.

We may not be able to literally go off to a mountain or a desert but we can make sacred spaces in our own room or even our own backyard. There are also times of the day when our own parish churches are quiet and conducive to prayer such as the recitation of the Stations of the Cross.

Who knows, in these quiet moments we may experience a revelation like Peter, James and John. We will know the Lord in new way that will make a difference in our life’s journey.