2nd Sunday of Lent – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Faith in God and Faith in Christ”.
It is easy to see how faith is the main theme of the first reading, though it is more difficult to discover this theme in the Gospel. Abraham needed a lot of faith to follow the course God showed him; likewise the Christian needs sound faith in Christ to follow him along the ‘Way’ he proposes.
The second reading shows us that the faithful and unconditional love of God is the foundations of our faith. Without trust, we humans could not live together. When we trust, our lives are enriched; when we betray trust, our lives are shattered. The idea of trust leads us into this Sunday’s readings. They emphasize, as the entire Bible does, that God alone is worthy of our full and ultimate trust. Jesus knew that come what may, his Father would vindicate his trust.
We reach transfiguration only by following the ‘Way of the Cross’ and giving ourselves totally into God’s hands. To foreshadow the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom, Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John. God did vindicate Jesus’ trust by raising him from the dead.
God will never let us down. Never!
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a-13, 15-18.
In the first reading, Abraham, at God’s bidding, is ready to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. At the last moment the angel of the Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God.”
The expression “God spoke to Abraham,” for instance, does not mean that God started speaking loudly from heaven, as some of us might imagine. It was a thought that came into the mind of Abraham who, at a certain point, imagined that God wanted him to sacrifice his son. But how can a father even think of such an action?
In Abraham’s time, the practice of offering up one’s son as a burnt offering to a ‘pagan god’ was quite common. There were many ancient kings who, finding themselves in great difficulties, would try to appease their god/s by sacrificing what was most dear to them: one of their sons.
Our God refuses and condemns the pagan practice of sacrificing children. He is the ‘God of Life’, not the ‘god of death’. It was believed by the pagans that idols demanded human sacrifice, but not the Lord, the God of Israel.
It is important for us twenty-first century readers to realize that the main point of the story is not what Abraham must have thought about sacrificing his son, but what Abraham thought about God. Abraham knew what God had promised him and that Isaac was part of that promise. Abraham also knew that God’s promises could not be contradictory to one another. Abraham’s willingness to carry out God’s command was a sign that, against every human sentiment, against a seemingly irrational demand on God’s part, Abraham believed that God knew what he was doing. Isaac was deeply important to Abraham. Isaac was also essential for the fulfilment of what God had promised, his numerous descendents. But the command of God had to be ‘more important’ than either.
In all likelihood, the message from this story was originally meant to deter the Jewish people from participating in the pagan practice of child sacrifice. Later generations saw in it a lesson of complete trust in God. That is why the angel appeared a second time to reveal God’s promise to Abraham: “Because you have done this… I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”
The most important thing we learn from this passage is ‘Faith’ and how great was the faithfulness of Abraham. He believed in God blindly: he left his land and country, gave up the security of his house and the protection that came from his family and tribe.
Such courageous faith is now being proposed as a model to all the catechumens at the start of Lent. They, too, when called by Christ must give up many things that are not in the ‘Way’, the ‘Truth’ and the ‘Life’ of the Christian. In many cases the catechumen must give up their old life for a totally ‘New Life’ in Christ. They must cast aside their past ways, behaviour and practices, the comforts and values that their past life was based on for a ‘New’ and stricter code of conduct, which now brings little of the pleasures that they used to know and enjoy.
What happened to Abraham often happens to us too: we see little of the wonders promised by God and rarely, if at all, experience some small sample of the new reality. How steady is our trust in the Lord during such periods? When things go bad, when we are victims of disasters, do we lose hope or do we keep our faith in God, assured that, in spite of contrary appearances, he is guiding our lives to greater things?
Psalm 116:10, 15-19.
The Psalm is the prayer of a faithful Israelite, from late in Israel’s history. The psalmist is a person at peace with God, whose trust nothing can break and who understands even death as precious in God’s sight. In his gratitude, he will refuse God nothing. Abraham could have prayed this prayer.
In Romans, Paul uses terminology from the Law Court to describe our relationship with God. God is our judge, but he is on our side. He has given up his Son on our behalf.
And Christ, his Son, is on our side too, since, when he rose from the dead, he took upon himself the new role of interceding on our behalf. If the Father is the judge who has already acquitted us, and the Son our advocate, how can we fail to win final salvation? Even if enemies were to put us to death, God would raise us up, as he raised up his Son. God, and only God, has the final say.
The reading is very short, but beautiful. It shows how the love of the Father is final and gratuitous and cannot be destroyed by the sins or infidelities of people.
At the ‘Transfiguration of Jesus’, two prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appear to Jesus and speak with him. Moses was unique in Israel as the mediator of the covenant between God and his people and the one to whom all prophets were to conform (Dt 18:15-20).
Prophets had to remind the people constantly of the terms of the covenant with God, how they had deviated from it and how to return to it. This was particularly true for ninth century BC prophet Elijah who had fought strongly against the Canaanite cult of Baal.
In the scene of the ‘Transfiguration’, Moses and Elijah recall the whole of the revelation of God in the Old Testament, the gift of the covenant and the Law and the gift of prophecy. God had spoken to his people in a special way through these two prophets. Now God is showing that there is continuity between what he had said in the past and what he is now saying in Jesus. A new age had begun. The appearance of Moses and Elijah confirms it.
The combination of the cloud and a voice coming forth from it is a way of telling us that we are witnessing a ‘theophany’ (an appearance of God). The cloud is the image commonly used by biblical writers to say that God is showing his glory.
The manifestation of the glory of God is now happening in the person of his beloved Son. However, like Peter, James and John, it is not good enough to count oneself one of the privileged few who have witnessed the glory of God in Jesus. They have no idea what is going on and are afraid. As for the people on Mt. Sinai who witnessed God speaking to Moses, the real challenge for us today is to listen to what God is saying and to decide to do his will and to live as children of the covenant.
When Jesus told his followers that an essential condition for anyone to follow him was to renounce themselves and take up the Cross; they found it very difficult. When the Gospel was written (around 65 AD) at the time of the persecution of Christians by Nero, it was all the more important to re-state these words. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” (Mk. 8:35).
Lent is a time for us to journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem in the company of both the prophets of the Old Testament and those of the present day. They will sometimes challenge us as to the way we live our lives and our selfish and hardened attitudes.
We need to be open to the needs of the world around us and to the conscience that God has put in each one of us – a voice that will never cease to make itself heard, pushing us to listen to Jesus and to live and love by his values, whatever the personal cost may be.
The central point of these readings is that even the worst news becomes, through trust in God, part of the ‘Good News’. Life has many loose ends, many that are hard to understand and even more difficult to endure. Ultimately they will make sense because of our trust in God.
The Christian needs a sound faith in Christ to follow him along the ‘Way’ that he proposes. We reach transfiguration only by following the way of the Cross and giving ourselves up totally into God’s hands.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 2nd Sunday of Lent Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Has your faith and trust ever been challenged in events or tragedies in your life that you could not understand and searched for an answer why such things should happen to you and to your family? When plagued by uncertainties and doubts we have the gift of the ‘Holy Bible’ we can turn to and learn from the events in ‘Salvation History’ where God always keeps his promises even if we ourselves see little of the wonders of his works.
Mon. … Isaac was deeply important to Abraham. Who or what is likewise important in your life? Would you be prepared to place God’s will above the most important person or thing in your life, despite the sacrifices you might have to make?
Tues. … We have all at one time or another committed violations against each other, against God’s gratuitous and merciful love and against creation itself. With the coming of Lent, let us cast aside our past behaviour and practices and strive for a new life in Christ based on God’s love for each one of us.
Wed. …The Psalmist in his trust and gratitude will refuse God nothing. Let us pray for this same powerful resolve.
Thurs. … Paul, after considering the plan of God, which is the salvation of all, cannot hold back his cries of joy: “If God is for us who can be against us?” Some say: our sins could testify against us, but that too will be impossible, because Jesus died to destroy the sins of humanity. How could God accuse and Christ condemn those for whom Jesus died? This beautiful reading shows how the love of the Father is final and gratuitous and cannot be destroyed by the sins or infidelities of people.
Frid. … The Church’s teachings on the transfiguration also speak symbolically of the conversion of the baptized. Have you been ‘transfigured’ and your life transformed? Celebrating Lent each year gives us all an opportunity to once again strive for the “upward call” to be perfect, as Jesus is perfect.
Sat. … Let us, this Lent and as an ongoing commitment, open up our hearts to the silent cries of all those labouring under the weight of their crosses. Let us share their burden and lead them in the ‘Way’. In giving up ourselves totally into God’s hands to lovingly serve others, we will become truly ‘transfigured’.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that by Your graces and blessings you grant us a sound faith to follow the Way that Your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ proposes. Help us to transform our lives, lost in the ways and temptations of this world, by developing a foundation of faith based on an unconditional love for You and our neighbour. Today, Father, we are truly happy that we place our hearts and lives into your hands.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.