Sunday, 3/17/2019, Second Sunday of Lent
God Makes a Covenant
First Reading Commentary: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
The Lord told Abram to look at the sky and count the stars if he could and said, “Just so, shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
God has many ways of communicating with us. He will use events, dreams, other people, our conscience, what we read or see which may be in the form of a vision. What we have to do to hear God is keep our minds, ears and eyes open. Abram was good at doing that which is why he was able to communicate with God so often.
In this vision, God told Abram that his reward would be great but Abram was already blessed in many ways and there was only one thing that he wanted and that was an heir. This event is the second time that God told Abram that his descendants would be innumerable, more than the stars in the sky.
Because Abram took the Lord’s word on faith, the Lord said to Abram, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur…to give you this land as a possession.” Abram asked, “God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” So, God answered, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram did as the Lord asked and split them in two except for the birds. Abram stayed with his offerings even though birds of prey had swooped down on them.
It was the custom in those days that when a covenant was made between people, animals were used as an offering, they were split in two and both parties walked between the two sides of the animals. Abram made the preparations for the covenant and waited for God to come and make the covenant with him.
After it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the split animals. This was God making His covenant with Abram and God said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River the Euphrates.” Remember that God had already promised this land to Abram. But with this covenant, God promised Abram that not only would he possess this land, but so would his descendants. At the same time, because Abram did not have any descendants at the time, God has made his promise of descendants a covenant.
A covenant is more than a promise. It is a binding contract. God made more than one covenant with Abram. In fact, God made several covenants in the Old Testament. God is the Almighty. He does not have to make covenants with us. But He did. How willing are we to make a covenant with Him? How many times do we say that we are going to do something for our faith and then fail to do it?
Two thoughts: 1- God has never broken a promise or covenant with us. We should not break one with Him. 2- After everything that God has done for us, beginning with giving us our lives, we should jump at the opportunity to do whatever He asks of us.
Second Reading Commentary: Philippians 3:17-4:1
We are all influenced by our peers. Some of us: more so than others. We imitate others in the way that we dress by staying in fashion. We imitate others in what we do by following the status quo. We imitate what others say by using certain expressions and buzz words that are up with the times. To some extent, we all imitate others no matter how much we claim to be totally independent and uninfluenced by the times.
Sometimes, we follow a certain group of people because we like what they do or what they stand for or maybe, because we want to be like them, or maybe because we want something that they have which might be status.
Today, Paul tells the Philippians to be like him and the other Apostles. Paul said, “Join with others in being imitators of me.” This might sound like Paul was being very high on himself but the reality is that Paul was telling the Philippians to be like Christ—imitate Christ.
Paul points out that if we are enemies of the cross, we are enemies of God and nothing good can come of that. We place ourselves on a path of destruction by being consumed with earthly things. Sin is the result, especially, the deadly sin of greed.
Today’s message from Paul is appropriate during Lent which is a time of repenting and fasting. Lent is a time to focus on staying clear of greed and the destruction that it brings. Lent is a time to focus on imitating Christ. But we cannot imitate Christ without His help.
Not to worry. Paul reminds us that Christ will change our lowly body to conform with; His glorified body. In this life, Christ does this through His grace which He bestows on us by way of the sacraments.
During Lent, we place an emphasis on the sacrament of Confession because through Confession, we admit to our sins, ask God for His forgiveness and we receive God’s forgiveness. But all of the sacraments are designed to conform us into being more like Christ so that we might be with; Christ in heaven.
Meditate on the last sentence of today’s reading from Paul. He says, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.” You cannot read this sentence quickly and catch Paul’s drift. In fact, if you do read it quickly, what Paul says may not make since at all.
So, let’s break it down. Paul tells the Philippians that they are his brothers and sisters, that he loves them that he longs for them and that they are his joy and crown. Christ, in His humanity, became our brother. Christ loves each of us so much that He gave His life on the cross and longs for us to be with Him in His Kingdom because we are His joy.
Did you ever consider yourself to be a part of the crown of Christ? Next time you look at an image of Christ wearing His crown of thorns, remember that His Passion was for our sake. The crown of thorns is our crown because each of us is an individual thorn in the crown.
Christ did not abdicate His position as King. He accepted His crown willingly and lovingly because He made us to be one with Him and He is one with us. This is one reason why Christ is the King of Kings. Therefore, His crown is the most magnificent of all crowns and we are that crown.
So, when we gaze at the crown of thorns, we should not limit our vision and thinking to the horror endured by Christ that day. We should also see the splendor and glory associated with Christ being the King of Kings who gladly placed that magnificent crown with all of us and all of our sins on His head; wore it to the cross and left our sins behind.
Today's gospel is Luke's account of the Transfiguration. Paul is talking about our transfiguration. As Christ changes our lowly bodies to conform with His glorified body, we are being transfigured from this life on earth to the glorified eternal life in heaven.
And so, today’s message from Paul ends with him saying, “In this way stand firm in the Lord.” Notice the words “in the Lord.” Not with but “in” because together, we are His Mystical Body and that is because of His love and joy for us.
The Transfiguration of the Lord
Gospel Commentary: Luke 9:28b-36
The Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary
Jesus took Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray. The face of Jesus changed appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glory with Him and they spoke about the exodus that Jesus was going to make out of Jerusalem.
This event of Jesus going up the mountain relives Moses going up Mount Sinai. The face of Moses became so radiant that the Israelites could not look at him so he covered his face with a veil. The way that Jesus appears at the Transfiguration is also consistent with Daniel’s dream and with John’s vision in 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 realize this 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, we try to make a comparison with something 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 chosen Son; listen to him.” After God spoke, Jesus was alone and the disciples told no one what they had seen.
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.
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 them 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 Acts of the Apostles and in their letters.
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. Paul is telling us to do that today in his letter to the Philippians when he says, “…stand firm in the Lord.” Strength and understanding are both gifts of the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is use them.