Consolation and desolation

| Deacon Brian Eckrich | March 9, 2017 | 0 Comments


The Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Lent presents us with St. Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the top of Mount Tabor, where “he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” (Mt 17:2). Shortly before this event, Jesus announced to the apostles “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). The apostles were surely weighed down by the sorrow of this announcement.

As St. Bede comments, during the Transfiguration of the Lord, Jesus “in a loving concession, allowed Peter, James and John to enjoy for a very short time the contemplation of happiness that lasts forever, so as to enable them to bear adversity with greater fortitude.”  In that moment of consolation, Christ helped those apostles prepare for the trial of his passion and death.

St. Ignatius of Loyola is well known for his 14 Rules of Discernment, in which he notes two movements: consolation and desolation. Here, he speaks to the realities experienced by anyone striving for holiness in the spiritual life. Each one of us experiences times when prayer is easy and joyful, and it is at these times we recognize the consolation of God’s love. But at other times, we don’t feel like praying. Prayer becomes difficult and dry; we become sad, as if separated from the Lord. This continual fluctuation between consolation and desolation is normal to the spiritual life.

St. Ignatius gives us the direction that when we find ourselves in desolation, we must realize that consolation will again return to us. God allows us to be tested through desolation so as to bring about growth, but he never truly abandons us. He may withdraw the feeling of his presence for a time, but he will always make himself present to us once more. And when that time of consolation comes, we must use that moment to prepare for the times of desolation that will come in the future. We “store up” those joyful times in our life so that we may recall them in the times of sorrow to give us hope and comfort.

In the words of St. Leo the Great, “The principal aim of the Transfiguration was to banish from the disciples’ souls the scandal of the Cross.” The disciples would not forget this “drop of honey” that Jesus gave them in the midst of their grief. In this way, Jesus always provides for those he loves. In the midst of the greatest suffering, he gives us the consolation we need to keep going forward.

Deacon Eckrich is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His teaching parish is St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius/St. Mary in Delano, and his home parish is Sacred Heart in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Sunday, March 12
Second Sunday of Lent


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Category: Sunday Scriptures