Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.”
Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died–or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. and he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Most of us have heard the story of Abraham many times in our lives. It is such a strong story and has such awful details. So many great religious thinkers have struggled with this problem of how God could ask anyone to kill his own son. Yet, that problem is not the central teaching of this story. The point of the story is that Abraham was willing to obey God, willing to sacrifice all that was most dear to him to obey God and willing to trust God completely.
We need to remember that Abraham had been promised that his descendants would be numerous as the stars in the sky—and not from Hagar, the servant of his wife, but from Sarah herself. After incredible happenings, Isaac is born to Sarah and Abraham. Only when Isaac is a little older—old enough to help out bit, but not a man yet—is Abraham asked to sacrifice him.
It is through these struggles and trials of Abraham that God makes His covenant with Abraham and with the Hebrew people. We can see with absolute clarity that Abraham is transformed through these experiences. Abraham forges a relationship with God just as God is forming Abraham in His own ways.
It is this relationship of Abraham to God that becomes the point that helps us understand the Gospel today. Always on this Second Sunday of Lent we celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Far too often we think of Jesus as only God and forget the humanity that he bore, the sufferings that he undertook for our salvation.
We don’t know clearly what happened at the Transfiguration, but it has clear connections with the agony in the garden and with the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. Jesus Himself, in this account by the evangelist Mark, tells his followers to say nothing about it until he had risen from the dead—and they seem not to know what that means.
Jesus always does the will of His Father, but we also know that Jesus struggles with that will at times. There are no easy answers to how divinity and humanity exist together in our Lord. But neither are there easy answers about how grace and our human freedom work together.
Lent is a time when we want to purify our lives so that divinity can dwell more fully within us. We want to be faithful to God and recognize that by our own powers, we cannot be faithful.
We need to hear the words of the second reading: If God is for us, who can be against us… It is Christ Jesus Himself who intercedes for us.
These words from the Letter to the Romans should give us great hope and confidence in this time of Lent. We can undertake all kinds of Lenten penances and Lenten good works once we realize that God is always there for us, interceding for us and calling us to a more loving and complete life in Him.