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Second Sunday – Year B – Lent
Readings: Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10.
Reading 1 (Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18):
God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth
shall find blessing-
all this because you obeyed my command.”
Reading 2 (Rom 8:31b-34):
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?
Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
Gospel (Mk 9:2-10):
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God sacrificed His Only Son for His people.
Love is an abstract concept: people can’t correctly define what is love, but they can feel when they are loved. God’s love is even more abstract because we never see Him; but we can feel His immense love for us when we look up on the Cross.
Today readings were perfectly arranged so that we can feel God’s love for us through two events which happened in Mt. Moriah and the Golgotha hill. In the first reading, the Book of Genesis reported the event God wanted to test Abraham’s faith by commanding him to kill Isaac, his only son whom God gave him in his old age. With his unshakable faith in God, Abraham raised a knife and were ready to sacrifice his son as God commanded. In the second reading, St. Paul compared this event with the death of Jesus on Golgotha hill and made the conclusion: “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” In the Gospel, Jesus brought with him three disciples to Mt. Thabor, and he let them see his Transfiguration so that they could be ready to face his coming Passion and Death.
1/ Reading I: Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son as a holocaust for God.
1.1/ Abraham’s faith: Human faith must be tested to see which if it is real. The Genesis’ account clearly said: “God put Abraham to the test.” This was a great test which exceeded human limitation when God commanded Abraham: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”
(1) Human reaction: If we are in Abraham’s place, how could we react to God’s command? Many of us would answer Him: “It is enough! Please don’t test us this way. This is my only son whom You gave me in my advanced year. If you really want Isaac, please don’t give him to me in the first place.” This reaction can be justified because there isn’t a good father who wants to kill his only beloved son, the one who continues his genealogy.
(2) Abraham’s reaction: If Abraham reasoned like a human being, he shall not understand and accept God’s command because it is so unreasonable; but he decided as he decided many times before, to live according to his faith in God. God gives and takes away, thanks be to God. He takes away and gives back again; nothing is impossible to God. When he came to the place God prescribed, Abraham made an altar, stacked up the dried wood, bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar. Then, he raised the knife up to kill his son.
1.2/ The tragedy is quickly ended: At the moment everybody were holding their breath, the author of Genesis reported: “But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.”Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.””
God saw through Abraham’s mind and heart; He knew that Abraham completely trust in Him. Since God only wanted to test him, He didn’t need to see anything more. His messenger ordered him to stop the killing of his son.
Abraham found a substitute sacrifice for his son: “As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.”
1.3/ God promised these rewards for Abraham: Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heavenand said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son,I will bless you abundantly.” God promised to grant Abraham and his descendants three things:
(1) An abundant descendants: I shall “make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” This promise is fulfilled now.
(2) The Promise Land: “Your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies.” This promise is included both the Israelites’ entrance to the Promise Land under Joshua and humankind to the heaven by Jesus’ victory.
(3) Abraham’s descendants shall be God’s selected nation: “and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing — all this because you obeyed my command.”
2/ Reading II: God sacrificed His Only Son for human beings.
2.1/ A comparison between God’s and Abraham’s love: The event that happened in Mt. Moriah is the figure and the preparation so that people can understand what happened in Golgotha hill. There are many similarities and differences between the two events.
(1) Similarities: Both fathers were ready to sacrifice their only son, the beloved son. If we felt Abraham’s love for Isaac, we must also feel God’s love for His Son. In God’s plan of salvation, the event of Abraham-Isaac prepared our souls for Christ’s event so that we can feel God’s love for us.
(2) Differences: There is a great difference between the two events. In the former, Isaac wasn’t killed; in the latter, Christ was actually killed in place of human beings by the humiliated and painful death. If we felt indignant with God in the first event, how do we feel for God when He expressed His love for us in the second event? We never see God, but we should feel His love for us when we look up on the cross. Both the Father and the Son showed their immense love for us.
2.2/ God doesn’t want to condemn people: St. Paul helped us to draw out some important conclusions from the Christ’s event: “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” St. John said the same thing: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18).
God doesn’t want to condemn people, people condemn themselves by showing their indifference or turning their back to God’s love: “Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us.Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”
3/ Gospel: Jesus prepared his disciples for his Passion.
3.1/ The purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration: Jesus let his disciples see His glory is to teach them a lesson: they must go through suffering to reach the glory. He also prepared them for his coming Passion and Death, so that when they must face it, they have the hope to endure and to overcome all sufferings.
3.2/ There are many things Jesus wanted to reveal for his disciples through this Transfiguration:
(1) He is the Son of God: Jesus disciples heard the voice from clouds: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” This is the second time that they heard this voice; the first time they had heard this voice is in Jesus’ baptism before Jesus began his public ministry, this time was before Jesus’ Passion and Death. The voice confirmed the relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus.
(2) He is the Messiah whom the prophets announced: The presence of the two witnesses, Elijah was represented for all prophets and Moses for the law, proved this point.
(3) Jesus was going through the way of the cross: The disciples’ question at the end of this passage “what rising from the dead meant” showed they knew that Jesus, Moses and Elijah discussed about the Passion which is going to happen for Jesus in Jerusalem. Luke’s report is clearer about this point.
(4) God’s love for human beings: This is the highest point of the Transfiguration though the passage didn’t mention it. When God let His Son, Jesus Christ, go through the Passion to redeem human beings, He wants them to understand His love for them.
(5) Jesus volunteered to embrace his Passion: The disciples heard Jesus discussed his Passion with Moses and Elijah, so that when it actually happens, they shall know it isn’t accidental. He volunteered to accept suffering, not that he failed to counter human forces.
3.3/ Why did Jesus prohibit his disciples to talk about this event? In reality, there are some events which are only needed to reveal to some people to prevent confusion; there are events which are revealed at the right time. Jesus took with him only three apostles: Peter, James and John because they formed the nucleus of the Twelve. He commanded them not to reveal what they saw because, to Mark, this is the Messiah’s secret: Jesus accepted suffering and death to redeem humankind.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– When God gives us His Only Son, He gives Himself. He also desires us to give our only son, that is ourselve, as Abraham. The ideal love is such. God shows the depth of His love through the two events: He prepared human mind by the Abraham-Isaac event so that we can feel His love through Christ’s Passion and Death.
– We couldn’t fathom Abraham’s trial and the sacrifice of God’s Only Son. These help us to know why God let sufferings happen to us, so that we know how to completely put our trust in Him.
– Faith must be tested in trials and sufferings. Behind Jesus’ Passion and Death is His glorious Resurrection. If we deny our sufferings and cross, we also deny the way to our glorious resurrection.