2nd Sunday of 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. The first is that 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 without 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. Similar readings appear in the other Synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke.
As often occurs in all the Gospels, this is a scene in which only Apostles experience the full reality of Jesus, or hear the more complete message of Jesus. They were the Lord’s specially chosen followers. Jesus had called them for a purpose of their continuing to reconcile God with humanity, humanity with God, as had Jesus.
For this purpose, the Apostles were educated. Since this purpose would take them far and wide, and inevitably into unfriendly conditions, their faith needed reinforcement.
There can be no doubt that the Transfiguration revealed the Lord’s divinity. The imagery would have been familiar to Jews contemporary with Jesus.
Brilliant light symbolized God. Mountaintops symbolized God. Pure white symbolized God. Finally, surrounding Jesus were Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of the religious tradition.
Lent is just 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.
By inference, the Church also reminds us that Jesus was a human. The Apostles had seen this humanity day after day. Now, in the Transfiguration, they saw the divinity of Jesus.
Of course, it is a story of God’s power and supremacy. Also, however, it is a revelation in context. Jesus had come into the world, as a human as well as Son of God, to reconcile sinners with God, God with sinners.
Yet, Jesus did not drag anyone kicking and screaming into the kingdom. We all must enter the kingdom willingly. But God supports us and guides us. He gives us the revealed word in Second Timothy and in all the Scriptures.
Most of all, God gives us Jesus.
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