2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B – 2018
FIRST READING 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.”
SECOND READING Romans 8:31b-34
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 Mark 9:2-10
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.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us. That is the invitation of the readings today. Give all and receive whatever is given back.
Although we want to give all the Lord, we often find that what the Lord wants of us seems more than we can give. Most of us don’t have the faith that we see in Abraham in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis. We should recognize that even the early Christian commentators on this passage found it difficult. Would God actually ask a father to kill his own son? This is God asking something immoral from a human. The only answer to this difficulty is that God does not actually, in the end, ask Abraham to kill his own son.
The point of the account in Genesis is not about God asking Abraham to do something immoral, but about Abraham being willing always to do the will of God. Abraham is called “our father in faith” because of his complete dedication to doing whatever God asks of him.
We may doubt at times what God might ask of us. We find it difficult to accept the evil that is in our world, the bad things that happen to good people, the atrocities against people that go unpunished, the school shootings. Always people ask how a good God can allow such evils to happen. Yet such questions are truly not about God but about us humans with our sinfulness. We are broken beings who don’t always choose what is right and good. God gave us this freedom. And we misuse our freedom.
The real question is this: why don’t we humans always choose what is good and what is right? The only answer is that something is broken in us. What do we do about the brokenness? All the laws in the world are unable to redeem us and to force us to choose good. Only salvation from God brings about a true conversion.
And how difficult that is! The Letter to the Romans, from which is taken the second reading today, speaks to this problem: “Christ Jesus it is who died–or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” The only way of redemption is to embrace the path of God, who gave His own Son for us.
The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus is changed in front of his own followers, at least some of them, so that they can believe that He is truly God even when they see Him undergo crucifixion. At the heart of our Christian believing is this deep awareness that Jesus is born for us, that Jesus dies for us and that Jesus has indeed been raised to life for us. This is not a philosophical argument but an experienced reality of the early Christians that we later Christians have come to see as true because of their testimony.
So our readings today are clear: seek to do the will of God in all things, believe that Christ died and was raised from the dead for us and see in the Transfiguration of Christ that we also can be transfigured by our complete belief in Him. Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us.
Your brother in the Lord,