Second Sunday of Lent
The Book of Genesis is the source of this weekend’s first reading. Often, Genesis is associated with its creation narratives. But much else is included in Genesis.
A major figure is Abraham. Historians and biblical scholars agree that Abraham actually lived, long ago. He was not a myth or the product of imagination.
Historically, Jews have regarded Abraham as the first of their race. In a theological sense, Christians see Abraham as the first of their race, since Christianity flows from the revelation initially given by God to the ancient Hebrews.
This weekend’s reading is very familiar. Abraham leads his beloved son, Isaac, to the top of a high mountain, there to kill him as a sacrifice to God. As is well-known, God intervenes and orders that Isaac be spared.
The story has several lessons. One lesson, usually overlooked, is the repudiation of human sacrifice by none other than God. Beyond this detail, this reference shows that paganism in any form is a human invention.
God illumined the people, rescued the people, by drawing them away from paganism and leading them to the truth. Abraham was God’s instrument. Abraham’s faith made him worthy of being God’s instrument.
For Christians, Isaac symbolizes Jesus, since Jesus was the victim of the ignorance and viciousness of humans, of pagan humans. Jesus lived, however.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading. This reading simply says that if the power of God, and the light of God, are with us, nothing can prevail against us.
The Gospel of Mark provides the last reading. It is the story of the Transfiguration.
Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the summit of a high mountain. There, in an overwhelming, stupendous, even terrifying appearance, Jesus is transfigured, visible to the Apostles as the Son of God.
Light is everywhere. In the Old Testament, God is associated with light. Indeed, we associate darkness with danger and the unknown. Light is from God, as are security, strength, genuine awareness, and perception.
Mountaintops were the places on earth nearest to heaven. In a hopeful, awkward attempt to come as close as possible to God, humans went to the tops of mountains. Indeed, the temple in Jerusalem was at the summit of Mount Zion. Jesus was crucified on a hilltop. He ascended from a hilltop.
In this reading, Jesus appears in the reality of divinity. In this divinity is eternal life itself. God never dies. God never changes. Nothing daunts God. Nothing threatens God. These notions about God pertained in the hearts and minds of Jews contemporary with God as they do for us in modern times and in modern theology.
The presence of Moses and Elijah is important. Their places on either side of the Lord indicate that Jesus stands in the historic train of God’s communication with, and salvation of, God’s people, a process in salvation history in which Moses and Elijah were vitally important.
The novelty of Lent has ended. Now, the Church leads us in earnest into this period to prepare for Holy Week and Easter.
Its message is simple. God is everything. We humans are utterly limited, and we can never overcome our limitations. We can never escape our human limitations, but God provides for us just as God long ago provided for Abraham, whose faith was unflinching. By the same token, faith is indispensable in our search for, and path to, God.
God is in Jesus. Jesus is Lord. This is the great message of the Transfiguration given us this weekend in Mark’s Gospel. It was Paul’s declaration to the Christian Romans.
It is simple. If we have Jesus, we have God. We lack nothing. Thus, the Church calls us in Lent to meet Jesus.
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