Readings for March 4,
Second Sunday of Lent
1 Genesis 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10
The theme of this Sunday’s readings seems to be sacrifice, a timely topic for this second week of Lent. It begins with the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac.
This can be a very confusing story to us because it’s almost impossible to understand why a loving God would even ask for a parent to sacrifice a son. But this event is about much more than Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, more important; it’s about God’s promises to him. Isaac was the fulfillment of this promise and now he was being asked to destroy him.
Is Abraham, who received God’s sincerest promises, able to give these promises back to God? This testing of Abraham is extreme and therefore it’s pictured in the most outrageous way that can be imagined, as a child sacrifice. Abraham is called our father in faith and this story attests to this title. Abraham does not know that God is only testing him and yet he followed the call obediently.
Like Abraham, we all face sacrifice of some kind in our lives. Whether it is a voluntary offering like a Lenten sacrifice or letting go of something or someone that is very dear to us, it is always an act of submission to God. Will we have the courage to answer God’s call to sacrifice as Abraham did?
Paul reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and with that wonderful statement, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He calls our attention to God’s overwhelming love and care for us. Abraham knew this; otherwise he would not have had the courage to answer God’s command.
In today’s world we tend to think that if we don’t understand something it doesn’t apply to us. We have lost the mystery of faith and the trust that God is there for us.
So how does the glorious story of the Transfiguration fit in with the theme of sacrifice? For Mark, the event focuses upon the revelation of Jesus’ identity as Son and he asserts his Christology of the suffering Son of Man. The transfiguration is a theophany that authorizes Jesus to make his way to Jerusalem to accept the cross and complete his sacrifice. The presence of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration scene together with the shining garments of the exalted Christ provides a glimpse of the future resurrection and glorification of Christ and is confirmed by Jesus’ stern instructions not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen.
What was the immediate response of the apostles? They were terrified. Fear is a common response to an unknown event and yet they knew they were in the presence of God and rushed to worship.
What were they thinking coming down from the mountain? They would naturally be asking themselves about the realness of what had just happened. When we experience God in our lives there is always the little questions, “Was that really real? Was I talking to myself?” And as they are struggling with these questions Jesus instructs them to keep it all a secret. If they disclosed the transfiguration before the death and Resurrection, it would be a focus on the Resurrection involving glory without the cross. The sacrifice and death on the cross were most important in Jesus’ life as our willingness to sacrifice is now.
Kathleen Ebner is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes, where she serves as spiritual director and catechist.