2nd Sunday in Lent
The Book of Genesis is the source of this weekend’s first biblical reading. As its name implies, Genesis reveals the divine origin of life, and it also reveals the divine plan in the forming of the Hebrew race.
Genesis is a splendidly vivid revelation of God’s majesty and power, and indeed of the dignity of humanity. It is a great pity that this marvelous book has been so tortured and misconstrued by well-meaning but uninformed readers over the years. In their earnest attempt to preserve the divine character of this book, they lose much of its impact.
This weekend’s reading is about Abraham. Considered by scholars to have been an actual person and not a myth, Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish people.
The reading makes several points. God is active in human affairs, and that humans can communicate with God. Abraham has very strong faith. God rewards this faith by pledging that Abraham’s descendants, until the end of time, will be God’s special people. It is not a dignity conferred with obligation. The people who descend from Abraham must be loyal to God and by their lives of faith reveal God to the world.
For its second reading, this weekend’s liturgy presents a passage from the Second Epistle to Timothy.
Timothy was a disciple of Paul and is venerated by the Church as a great saint, important in the formation of Christianity. According to the New Testament, Timothy was the son of a pagan father and a devout Jewish mother. He was Paul’s secretary at one point. He once was imprisoned with Paul but was released. Tradition is that Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus.
In this reading, the epistle encourages Timothy to be strong in his Christian belief despite the difficulties and obstacles that will arise.
St. Matthew’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is the story of the Transfiguration, replete with symbols of God and images of God with which any Jew instantly would have been familiar, as these symbols and images appear throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
Brilliant light, mountaintops, and pure white symbolized God. Finally, surrounding Jesus were Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of the religious tradition.
This scene utterly contrasts with that of Calvary. Instead of shimmering clothes, Jesus on the cross has been stripped of his garments. Instead of glowing clouds and brilliant light, gloom and darkness surround the cross.
Lent is little more than one week in progress, and already the Church is encouraging us and reinforcing our faith, as Jesus strengthened the faith of the Apostles who stood trembling and in dismay before the divine sight manifested on the mountain.
The message is clear. Jesus is God, active and present among us.
However, personally to be saved, we must believe, and in this belief we must commit our very lives to Christ. So, Abraham is critically a part of this weekend’s lesson.
Nowhere in these readings is any account of the crucifixion. Nowhere is Calvary mentioned. Nevertheless, the event of the Lord’s death on the cross is essential to understanding fully this weekend’s message.
Calvary represents the world. It was for a moment, seemingly, the triumph of earthly power and human sin over good. At least surely this is how it was interpreted by the enemies of Jesus. Of course, Jesus reversed all this by rising in glory.
Every human being can be tricked into assuming that earthly things, or earthly satisfaction, will bring them to triumph. They will not. Sinning brings death. All around it is gloom and darkness.
But, we must have faith, to see beyond the gloom to the light of Jesus, as seen at the Transfiguration.
Abraham is our model, our father in faith, in absolute faith.
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