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.
God did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all—this phrase from the second reading today, from the Letter to the Romans, is the theme for this Second Sunday of Lent. We can hardly imagine that a father would hand over his own son to die for others. We could not imagine that such a father would have any love for his own son. The accounts that we are given in Scripture sometimes leave us with enormous questions and enormous doubts that it can really be of God.
Yet, if we read the Scriptures with open hearts, we come to find the wisdom of God there. The first reading today, from the Book of Genesis, is the story of Abraham being will to kill his own son because he believed that God was asking that of him. Was Abraham wrong? Is it just a story? Is there any morality in it? All those kinds of questions are justified. Yet, we are called to read with faith and to understand the meaning of the story: a person must be willing to give up everything for God.
All of us know this. No one, not even the persons that we most love, should interfere in our relationship with the living God. Yet we must pray that those whom we love can walk with us in the relationship to God, rather than get in our way. Even when we know that a relationship is perhaps not the best for us in terms of our religious practice, we can still pray that it might change. That is what we do when we love others. But at the end, we must be willing to give up all for the sake of God.
The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, is about the Transfiguration of Christ. Always the first Sunday of Lent is about the temptations in the desert and the second is about the transfiguration. These two experiences go hand in hand, and in both of them there is an awareness of some special relationship with God, some special manifestation of spirit (even of Spirit) in which the people around Jesus feel and experience something divine.
Jesus is baptized and is willing to give everything for God. Jesus is tempted in the desert and is willing to give everything for God. Jesus is transfigured and the disciples with Him remember this experience after His suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus is willing to give all for God.
The challenge of the Gospel for us today is very clear and very stark: Am I willing to give everything for God? This is the challenge of Lent. We would like to give all for God and yet we don’t. Lent is to help us continue to move into action our deepest desire: all for God.