Sunday, 2/28/2021, Second Sunday of Lent
First Reading Commentary: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
God put Abraham to the test. Remember that when God told Abraham that he would have a son, Abraham laughed thinking that it was not possible for a man of his age. Genesis 17:17 Sarah also laughed when she heard the news thinking that she could not bear a son at her age. Genesis 18:10-12
If we read the whole story in Genesis 22, we know that God told Abraham to take his son and offer him up as a burnt offering on a height that God would choose. So, Abraham saddled up his donkey with the wood that he had cut for the burnt offering and set out with his son Isaac and two servants for the place that God told him to go. On the third day, Abraham saw the place and told his servants to stay where they were. Abraham placed the wood on Isaac’s shoulders and took him to the place. Isaac asked his father about the offering and Abraham told him that God would provide it.
Do you notice any similarities to the Passion of Christ here? A hill was selected by God for the offering just as Christ was crucified on a hill at Calvary. Donkeys were used to get to the place and it took three days. Christ road a donkey into Jerusalem where He would begin His Passion and ultimately be condemned to death. The three days had to be on the way because Isaac was not resurrected. Instead, he was spared by God. Isaac carried the wood on his shoulders to the hill just as Christ carried His cross. It is the Son who ultimately carried out the Will of God. Isaac would have been the sacrifice—Christ was the sacrifice.
Abraham tied up Isaac and placed him on top of the wood. Here we see another similarity as Christ was tied and nailed to the cross. As he was about to slaughter his son, the LORD’s messenger called out to Abraham from heaven and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy…I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
This taught Abraham four lessons and these lessons apply to all of us. First, God wants us to love Him as much as He loves us which means that we should have the willingness to give up everything for Him. God does not force us give anything up for Him but He does want us to be willing to give up everything and when that willingness comes from the heart, God rewards us in immeasurable ways. Fortunately, Abraham already had that willingness.
Second, God wants us to have faith in Him at all times and in all things. Once again, remember that Abraham and Sarah had doubt and laughed at God. This event taught Abraham to never make that mistake again.
Third, God is faithful to His people. God’s faith is by His choice and comes to us with love. God’s faith is without question and is demonstrated by His integrity. If God says that it will be so—it will be so. That’s that! In our humanity, our integrity will never be on par with God's integrity, but God does not expect anything less than our heartfelt desire to be faithful to Him in spite of our brokenness.
Fourth, God does not expect us to do anything that He has not already done and continues to do for us. There is no limit to God’s love and that is proven with the death and resurrection of the only Son of God—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Take a look at the LORD’s covenant in the Old Testament with Moses promising the Promised Land—Jerusalem here on earth. Then take a look at the covenant that Christ made with all of mankind in the New Testament promising the Kingdom of Heaven—the New Jerusalem. In both covenants, God has kept His part of the deal and God continues to keep His part of the deal in ways that cannot be measured in a worldly way or manner. Furthermore, God does not stop doing for us in spite of our brokenness and sinfulness.
We are God’s creation. God made us in His image and He loves us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. Abraham’s faith and love for God had become so strong that he was willing to sacrifice his beloved son for God. This is a good time to look within and ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice for God.
After Abraham had been stopped from sacrificing his son, he looked around and saw a ram which he took and sacrificed to God. The Lord’s messenger called out again and renewed the covenant which God had made with Abraham. The messenger said, “…because you acted as you did…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.”
This is a covenant which God had already made with Abraham but notice that this time God told Abraham that his descendants would take possession of the gates of their enemies. When we look at the history of Abraham’s descendants, we see battles where this happened. But once again, we have to step out of the box and stop thinking of things which are only of this world. God was not simply referring to earthly battles. God was also referring to our battles with the evil one.
It is the gates of the Kingdom of heaven that those who are granted eternal life in the Kingdom will possess and Abraham’s descendants are not limited to his physical bloodline. His descendants include everyone who believes in and lives by the Word and Will of God and is granted access to the Kingdom. They are the people who follow God’s command.
We are not asked to sacrifice a son the way that Abraham was, but we are tested. The devil has been given dominion over the earth and he challenges us every day in his attempt to destroy our faith. It is those challenges which become our tests. Sometimes we pass and sometimes we fail. The good news is that God, in His mercy, always allows us to change our grade when we fail.
When is the last time that you have told God that you are sorry for your sins or been to Confession? Have you ever stopped to think that when you make an honest confession, you are proving your faith in God and telling Him that you love Him? Yes, I am due too.
With Faith, There Is No Question
Second Reading Commentary: Romans 8:31b-34
Nothing can keep us away from the love of God except our unwillingness to accept Him. Paul raises a series of questions and comments as he makes this point. He says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The point here is that no one will protect us and take care of us with the commitment and dedication that God will. God went so far as to send the Son for our salvation.
No one on earth can condemn us because no one can judge us except the Son who wants nothing more than to acquit us so that we can be with Him in His Kingdom. The Son even mediates and intercedes for us with the Spirit who is always there to protect us. We may suffer through hard times but nothing on earth can overwhelm us unless we allow it to. We may be persecuted by those who do not believe or refuse to follow, but no one on earth can condemn us by keeping us out of the Kingdom unless we choose to follow them instead of Christ.
God loves all of us, but it is the chosen ones who will reap the benefits of God’s love. Why only the chosen ones? Because of who the chosen ones are. They are the people who love God and there is no power, human or philosophical or spiritual, that can keep those of us who love God separated from Him. And that is because there is only one true God and it is in Him the chosen ones believe.
The Transfiguration of the Lord
The Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary
Gospel Commentary: Mark 9:2-20
Today, we hear Mark’s account of the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray. The face of Jesus changed appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. Then, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glory with Him and they began to speak with each other. Mark does not say this, but they were discussing the exodus that Jesus was going to make out of Jerusalem to His Kingdom of Heaven.
This event of Jesus going up the mountain relives Moses going up to Mount Sinai to meet with the LORD. Here, it is the Son who climbs the mountain to meet with Moses and Elijah. When Moses returned from the mountain, his face had become so radiant that the Israelites could not look at him, so Moses covered his face with a veil. Exodus 34:29-35 The way that Jesus appeared at His Transfiguration was in dazzling white clothes. This image was also consistent with Daniel’s vision in, Daniel 2:19, 31-45, and with John’s vision in the book Revelation.
It was the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples who went up the mountain with Him. Jesus appeared in His divine state as God the Son although the disciples did not understand what was happening when they first saw Him. Peter, who had a way of speaking without thinking first, said, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Peter made the mistake of thinking in human terms and of this world. If Peter knew that it was Moses and Elijah, he should have stopped to think that what was going on was not of this world. We usually try to think of God in a human way. That is not to say that we think of God as being human, although Christ did come to earth as a man, but because our minds cannot conceive God as He really is. So, we try to see God in a way that we can understand.
Before Peter could finish speaking, a bright cloud came and cast a shadow over the disciples and they became frightened. Remember that when God appeared to Moses at the Dwelling in the desert, He came in the form of a cloud which filled the Dwelling and God spoke to Him. Exodus 40:34 God, the Father, spoke here as well and said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” After God spoke, Jesus was alone and Jesus instructed the disciples to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had been, risen from the dead.
This is the second time that the Father spoke from heaven about Jesus. The first time was when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and the Father said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 But this time, the Father said, “Listen to him.” This was a commandment from the Father to the disciples and to all of us and it is very direct—Listen to Jesus. This is why anyone who declares themselves a Christian should follow everything that Jesus said and everything that Jesus did without exception.
The Transfiguration of Jesus points to the Resurrection and all three persons of the Trinity were present. It was the Father’s voice and the Holy Spirit appeared as the bright cloud. Jesus appeared in the glory of the Risen Christ. It also points to the Passion. One reason why is because the climb up the mountain is compared to the climb up to Calvary. Another reason is because Christ had to die on the cross in order to be resurrected.
The disciples did not understand what was happening at the time, but it was important for Peter, John and James to see Jesus in His divine state because this was a confirmation of Jesus being the Messiah. Being able to see Jesus as God, would later give them the understanding that Jesus’ Passion was voluntary and that by way of the cross, Jesus made His exodus from this life to His glory in heaven paving the way for our exodus from this life to our glory in heaven. The Transfiguration would also give the Apostles the strength that they needed to complete their mission as Apostles after Jesus was gone.
How can we be strengthened and gain understanding by meditating on the Transfiguration? We were not there to see it, but Peter, John and James were. Our human desire for tangible evidence has to come from them. Through their presence, we are all given tangible proof that Jesus is God the Son. By their witness to His Passion and Resurrection, we are all given even more proof.
They were enlightened with the understanding that Jesus went to the cross to prepare the way for all of us. Peter, John and James shared this with the other Apostles who in turn shared it with us in the book of Acts of the Apostles and in their letters. This was in obedience to the instruction that Jesus gave them which was to tell no one until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead although the Apostles did not understand what rising from the dead meant until the Resurrection of Christ.
From the experiences which the Apostles had with Christ and their sharing of those experiences with us, we must acquire strength and understanding through our faith in God. Strength and understanding are both gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, to have them, all we have to do is ask.
So why do we look at the Transfiguration today? Well for one thing, we are in Lent. During this time, one of the things that we should be doing is preparing ourselves for the Lord’s Passion. Jesus went up the mountain to converse with Moses and Elijah in preparation for His Passion.
Another reason is because of the connection to today’s first reading which was a precursor to Christ carrying His cross to Calvary where He would be sacrificed by His Father. We are often called to remember the sacrifice that God made for us. Today and all during Lent, we are called to remember that sacrifice as we prepare ourselves for its happening.