Second Sunday of Lent
Gen 22:1-2 & 9-13; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10 (Year B)
“God put Abraham to the test. ‘Take your Son, your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’”
The Letter to the Hebrews describes the Word of God as cutting like a double-edged sword, slipping through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, judging secret emotions and thoughts.
I believe that the account of Abraham’s testing, received with faith and humility, has the power to search our “secret emotions and hearts”. Such searching lies at the heart of Lent’s call to repentance.
Initially we are shocked by the suggestion that the God of Israel could even propose the sacrifice of a beloved son. We must get beyond this, and humbly accept that the passage is not intended to debate the ethics of child sacrifice. Human sacrifice had never been a part of Israel’s ritual practice. The passage is directed squarely at the unconscious calculation that we bring to the surrender of faith. If we believe that Christian discipleship is indeed a calling, costing no less than everything, then we must allow Abraham’s testing to speak to our hearts.
Lives touched by sin frequently live with unconscious compromise. The rich young man was determined to follow Jesus, but one thing he withheld was his wealth. Wealth was the Isaac that he was unwilling to surrender to the Lord. Discerning prayer, the precursor of repentance, reveals the areas of our lives that we are reluctant to surrender to God. These are our “Isaacs”. When Abraham surrendered himself in faith, he lost neither son nor promise. God’s blessing abounded. Sin, truly surrendered to God, becomes the abundance of life. St Paul reminds us that a gracious Father, who did not insist on the sacrifice of Isaac, “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all”.
The Transfiguration marked a crucial turning point in the journey that Jesus shared with his disciples towards the Cross and Resurrection. Likewise the Transfiguration brings light and hope to our Lenten journey.
At the Transfiguration Jesus prepared his disciples for the darkness that lay ahead. He understood fully the disappointment and self-doubt that Good Friday would bring. The Transfiguration enabled them to glimpse a glory, as yet hidden, that would be revealed in the power of his Resurrection. As we struggle through Lent, let us truly believe that the Lord longs to reveal his glory in the frailty of our humanity.
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