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.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Lent is a time to recognize that God is for us, always and everywhere. God is for us, not matter how much a situation may seem to be against us. God is always for us.
The first reading for today, from the Book of Genesis, is a real challenge. Too often we read stories like this one today and don’t stop to think of the anguish of Abraham or of the absolute terror of Isaac. These stories speak about terrible human situations and the necessity of finding God in such happenings. They speak of the promptings of God in our lives and how we must listen attentively to Him. The story of Abraham is a terrible story and yet also helps us comprehend the love God has for us in sending Jesus to be our Savior.
The Gospel today is almost comic. Obviously something happened on the mountain that disoriented Peter, James and John. They had some small glimpse into the life of Jesus and its anguish. They also saw a bit of His divinity shining through Him. What an incredible experience!
Both the reading from Genesis and from the Gospel of Mark can be summed up in the Letter to the Romans: Christ intercedes for us.
These thoughts repeat for us the message: God loves us entirely, God always pardons us. God is willing to give His Son for us. Jesus is willing to die for us! This is the Good News of Lent. It is only Good News if we can hear it. Our ears are so often deaf. The penance of Lent is to help us open our ears. The penance of Lent has nothing to do with punishing us, nor with tell us that we are no good. It was to do with our desire to have ears that can hear God, eyes that can see God and hearts that can love God.
So as we begin this Second Week of Lent, let us walk with joy even as we continue with penance! Let us recognize that we want our lives to be changed so that all that we live and hope and are may be the gift of God who loves us.