2nd Sunday of Lent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“It Is Difficult To Give Up One’s Life In Love.”
The first reading directs the theme of the message of the liturgy of today by presenting us with Abraham, who placed his total trust in God and, because of this faith, was promised a land and numerous descendants. Also Christians who have the courage to place their trust in God, though in human thinking may appear to be total failures, will in reality have numerous blessings.
The second reading invites all to die with Christ. The death that we speak of here is the destruction of our selfishness.
The Gospel, making use of images, shows us one of the most important moments in the life of Jesus: the enlightenment about the fulfilment of his mission. It will not be accomplished through success or triumph, but through humiliation and defeat. Jesus’ endeavours to have his disciples accept the plan of the Father fails. Only after his death will they start to understand how the ‘Way of the Cross’ is the way that leads to life.
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.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18.
The reading of today is the reply of God to the faith of Abraham: God sealed his promise with the Rite of the Covenant. Among the ancient Middle East peoples an important binding pact or promise was accompanied by a ceremony: an animal (a bullock, a kid or a sheep) was quartered and those taking the oath would pass between the pieces laid out in rows proclaiming: “let what happened to this animal happen to me if I am unfaithful!”
In the second part of the reading we are told that God made this Rite of Covenant. One day, Abraham had a kind of vision: God, after his promise, told him to kill the animals and to place their pieces lined up in rows along the two sides of a footpath; he then passed through the victims like a ball of fire. Note well: only God made the Rite of Covenant; Abraham was not asked to pass in between the sacrificed animals. This means that God’s promise was unconditional.
This account signifies that God’s undertaking with human beings is totally gratuitous. He is not saying “I will give you a reward if you behave well”. He promises his blessing without setting any conditions, without asking anything in exchange, like a faithful and generous husband telling his wife: “Even if you betray me, I will keep loving you forever.”
Does it then make any difference to behave well or to act badly? It certainly does. If you do not follow God’s ways, you will surely ruin your whole life. Though God never breaks off his friendship with anyone, he keeps loving this person all the same. There is no sin that is stronger than God’s love. We can be sure that in spite of our failures and wretchedness, he will lead every person in such a way that all may have the chance to open up their hearts in love.
Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14.
The expressions of trust in the Psalm are at home on the lips of Abraham. The poet’s searching for God’s face is rewarded for the three disciples on the mountains by the sight of the transfigured Christ. His invitation to stand firm is a fitting encouragement for the disciples as they journey with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Philippians 3:17- 4:1.
We certainly see today people whose ‘god’ is in self-indulgence in the sense that they are only concerned and worried about their own welfare, pleasures and immorality. We also have Christians who behave like enemies of Christ. How does one behave like “friends of the Cross of Christ?” Has one to suffer, accept self-denial, and give up all things one likes? Unhealthy self-denial can be a kind of self-destruction, and we all want to live, and not die. Death, whichever way we look at it, appears always an evil. But not all that appears to us as life is, in fact true. Take for example, a life busy only looking for pleasure, passing time to enjoy oneself abusing the rights of others, getting drunk; this may look like life, but it is in fact death, the destruction of existence. The friends of the Cross of Christ give up this form of selfish life because they know they are foreigners on this earth; they see themselves as nomads, like Abraham and keep moving towards their promised country, that is, in heaven.
We have a choice: We can imitate the ways of discipleship or the ways of the world. We can accept Jesus as our Lord and glory in the love and courage shown on the Cross. Or we can settle for making gods of ourselves and find glory in our own accomplishments. It all comes down to what we want: to save ourselves, or to be saved by the power of the Cross. Regrettably, most of us, when we are honest about it, prefer to save ourselves. It requires no great act of faith, just dogged work at looking out for ‘number one’. We spend a good deal of our lives in pursuit of self-preservation and shoring up our resources, health, appearance and image. It seems to make no impact on us that we are all going to die anyway. In terms of our mortality, terms we never quite accept, the Cross does seem to offer a more viable choice for our salvation.
In today’s Gospel, we meet Jesus at prayer in the company of Peter, James and John. Jesus set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem and is troubled. What was the purpose of his ministry? Certain death awaited him in the holy city. Was it really his Father’s will that he go there?
On praying over the matter, Jesus came to a decision. It was his Father’s will that he go, so go he would. At that very instant the aspect of his face changed and his clothing became as brilliant as lightning. In this experience of prayer the disciples perceive him in an ‘intimate union with God’ in such an extraordinary way. They see that Jesus is in the company of Moses and Elijah and understand that he stands in the tradition of Israel’s messengers from God. They spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. They also hear a voice from heaven inviting them to listen to Jesus because he is the Beloved Son of God. They will need time to grasp it more fully. This is how faith matures.
The Transfiguration of Jesus happens in a moment of deep personal prayer. Once again, Luke stresses the importance of prayerful listening. Like Jesus, his followers need to listen to the Scriptures and to God’s voice speaking in the heart as well as in the events of the world. Only in prayer can we understand and accept Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection. Only through prayer do we find strength to make the personal gift of ‘self’ when it is a source of great suffering.
There is no short cut to the new life Jesus gives. Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus. The topic of their talk is the passage of Jesus from this world to the Father. These two prophets had a special role in the religious history of Israel. Moses was the intermediary through whom God liberated his people from slavery in Egypt. Elijah is famous for his fight for God as being the One and only true God against the false Canaanite god of fertility.
Both Moses and Elijah somehow resemble Jesus because they made their passage from this life to the next under rather mysterious circumstances. Moses is said to have died and was buried by God and so nobody knows where his tomb is. Elijah, for his part, did not die. God took him up in a chariot of fire in the presence of his disciple Elisha. The company of these special figures wants to show that Jesus himself is a very special messenger of God. More than a messenger, as in his baptism, God again declares him his Beloved Son.
There is more reason to listen to what the chosen Son of God is saying about life, death and resurrection. What was implied at the time of the previous great messengers of God is now very explicit. The message is clear. However, the understanding is slow in coming from the part of the then disciples and from us too. We might at times just listen to God’s messenger, but not take in what the messenger says to challenge us about our life today.
Peter, John and James were later to witness the agony of Jesus in the garden. Before that trial they were strengthened in their faith by witnessing the ‘Transfiguration’. Later they were to be pillars of support to others in the early Church. Peter was chosen to be the ‘rock’ on which Jesus built the Church; James was the first apostle to face martyrdom; John would be the longest survivor of the apostles, responsible for the deep contemplation of Jesus in the fourth Gospel.
Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration was a preparation for his exodus, his passage back to the Father, so our transfiguration in baptism represents our entry into a Christian discipleship that likewise must be a kind of exodus – a leaving behind of the things that make us slaves to sin. The Transfiguration Story should get us to reflect on the meaning of our baptism. It challenges us to ask ourselves if we have continued on that baptismal journey towards the Father, or if we have taken a detour in another direction. When we are willing to focus seriously on the exodus journey, we will be changed too, as Jesus was on the mountain.
Lent is a time to allow the biblical and non-biblical messengers more fully into our lives so that they can challenge us and thus draw us closer to God and each other. This account is Luke’s way of teaching us that when we do God’s will, no matter how heavy the Cross, a glorious outcome is assured.
“It is wonderful for us to be here”, as we witness through the liturgy the ‘Transfiguration’ of our Lord.
‘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 C, we reflect on …
Sun. … God sealed his promise to Abraham through the ritual of ‘sacrificed animals’, the Rite of the Covenant. God binds himself unilaterally; all that is required of Abraham and his descendants and every Christian are total faith and trust that God will fulfil what he promised. In the history of salvation recorded in the Bible, God fulfilled all his promises. Why do we still doubt his word?
Mon. … The account in the first reading signifies that God’s undertaking with human beings is totally gratuitous. He promises his blessings without setting any conditions, for his benefit or for anything in exchange. Only a God of love could make such a Covenant; yet we still doubt his love.
Tues. … God’s Commandments and his will are there to protect us from the consequences of sin. If we choose not to follow his ways and his will, we will invariably ruin our lives and the lives of others. The false promises of the ‘world’ and of the ‘prince of darkness’, lead to self-destruction. God never breaks off his friendship with us, it is us who break off our friendship with God and start to trust and love other gods or simply try to make it on our own with disastrous consequences.
Wed. … Paul emphasizes the importance of the future of those who believe in Christ. Just as it happened to Christ, so it will happen to Paul and to Christians: Exaltation, resurrection and glorification. We have a choice: we can imitate the ways of discipleship or the ways of the world. Will we stubbornly try to save ourselves or allow Christ to save us by his grace and the power of the Cross? What we do need is Faith, Trust and Love.
Thur. … Jesus was troubled and was contemplating the purpose of his mission. Was it his Father’s will to go to Jerusalem and to face certain death or did the Father have another plan in mind? On praying over the matter, Jesus was able to realize that it was the Father’s will to face crucifixion for the redemption for our sins. His Transfiguration was the manifestation of his true union with God. In prayer and through his Word we, too, can achieve union with God. In carrying out the Father’s will we can achieve holiness and by his grace, our salvation.
Frid. … In retrospect, what was implied many times by the prophets and the great messengers of God becomes very explicit. God’s saving message of salvation takes its final process in Jesus’ commitment to carry out the Father’s will in an act of love for all humanity.
Sat. … Lent is a time to allow God’s messengers more fully into our lives. We will be challenged during Lent to develop a greater union with the Blessed Trinity and our community based on gratuitous love and repentance. When we carry out God’s will for the benefit of others and for the Truth and the Way, a glorious outcome is assured.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, grant us the grace to place all our faith and trust in You, despite the temptations to do otherwise. We pray that we may die to self and to sin and rise to a new life in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. May we come to realize that as Christians we all have a mission to fulfil Your will. We pray for the strength and courage and the ability to sacrifice whatever is necessary to fulfil our Christian mission.
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.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.