Second Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2009

Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10
                  Today’s readings call for our trust in God, who gives us life and all we have. He is the one who blesses us and cares for us even when entire hope seems to be lost. The first reading tells us of an unusual call from God asking Abraham to go and sacrifice his own son and only son. Abraham obeys him without any hesitation and God blesses him abundantly for his obedience. In the second reading it is Paul’s turn to remind us that God gave us his own son and this is his gratuitous gift for us. Further, this Son Jesus dies on the cross for us inviting us to carry our cross too daily and be with him. Through his cross he builds a new relationship and makes us realise that at the painful moments he is there with his graces and presence. The Gospel of today gives us the glorious moment in the life of Jesus where he is transfigured, on the top of a mountain before his disciples. His features are transformed and there is the voice of the Father, the theophany, to say that he is the chosen one, his son and we ought to listen to him. All this tells us that we are called upon to live a life of intimacy with God and listen to the voice of Jesus speaking to our hearts. Throughout the period of lent we may follow him closely and say yes to his invitation.
                 The First Reading from the Book of Genesis tells us that God tested Abraham. He calls him and commands him to take his son Isaac whom he loved, the son he got in his old age, and to go to the land of Moriah to offer him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that will be shown to him. Abraham obeyed God without any hesitation. Early in the morning, he sets out towards the mountain with his son. Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac.” This passage echoes Jesus carrying the wooden cross to Calvary. At the appointed place Abraham is ready to offer the sacrifice. God sees his obedience and faith and is pleased with him and does not allow his son to be sacrificed. He calls him again and makes a promise to build a great nation for him.
                  In the Second Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, we perceive that perseverance moves along side the living faith. In the early days of the Church, there was much persecution and many of the converts feared losing their lives. Paul gives them support saying, “If God is for us, who is against us? With his presence we have nothing to fear. Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. Be it hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword; no, none of these things will separate us! For the love of Christ is eternal. Like Jesus we are called upon to offer all things to God and we will succeed because he loves us. We read in the Bible that God did spare Abraham’s son, he did not spare his own Son “but gave him up to benefit us all”. Further we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But, even though he was God’s Son, he learnt through his sufferings to be obedient to be made perfect.
                 The story of the Transfiguration normally features on this 2nd Sunday in Lent. Mark presents it as the total revelation of faith. There is the blind man first who receives the sight. Then we have Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. After this Jesus rebukes Peter for playing the role of a tempter. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that not only will he suffer death on a cross but that every one of his disciples, if he is to be a disciple, must be more than ready to carry his own cross and be prepared to let go of his life. To be with him is the license to suffer. The total revelation comes in the form of transfiguration, as a gradual revelation of Jesus to the disciples. He makes them understand what sort of messiah he is going to be, namely a suffering messiah.
                  The vision of transfiguration is confined to three of Jesus’ inner circle: Peter and the two brothers, James and John. They are brought up to a “high mountain”. There has been much speculation about which mountain is being referred to but it does not matter. In the Bible generally, divine theophanies tend to take place on mountains and they are, in fact, regarded as sacred places by many of the world’s religions. Mountain symbolizes God’s presence. The Evangelist gives us the picture of transfiguration: Jesus becomes dazzlingly white, reflecting the light of God himself. Then, on either side of him, appear Moses and Elijah who converse with Jesus. Moses was the greatest Jewish Law giver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. Together they represent the whole of Jewish tradition. They are talking to Jesus about the cross and suffering and they become the consolation of the Father. All this takes place in the context of Prayer and where Jesus looks for the sign from the Father about his mission.
                   With everything that was happening, Peter was terrified. He was terrified in the sense that he was lost for words at the mystery of Christ. His fear was his great unworthiness of being in the presence of God incarnated. He becomes the spokes person of the disciples and wants this divine vision to continue. He wants to build three tents, tent signifying the presence of God. He wants one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. It was such a comforting environment and wants them all to remain in it. Then they hear the voice of the Father in the cloud: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” Again this is a total confirmation of his mission. The disciples have the command to listen and accept everything that Jesus says and does, including his rejection, suffering, dying – and rising again. For Jesus his mission is now confirmed. Once this is over the vision disappears and they are left with “only” Jesus, the ordinary everyday Jesus with whom they spend each day.
                     For Jesus his mission was very important. The disciples are called to be the part of the mission. They were told to listen to Jesus and learn how God’s love was working in and through Jesus even at that moment when he was left totally without dignity and in the depths of hopelessness. It was a lesson that they would learn in time and they would boldly follow in his footsteps and unhesitatingly give their own lives in the service of the Gospel and the Kingdom. It is for us, too, to listen to Jesus today and to ask for that kind of faith and trust that Abraham had that everything which happens to us is ultimately for the greater glory of God and our well-being and happiness.

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