FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Second Sunday of Lent (B)
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 | Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 | Romans 8:31b-34 | Mark 9:2-10
The main purpose of the readings for the Second Sunday of Lent is to challenge us to put our faith in the loving promises of a merciful God who sent His Son to die for us and to transform our lives and radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives.
In 2016, the Philippines experienced dry spells brought on by El Niño effect. During this time of great drought, Mang Ambo, a rice farmer in Munoz, Nueva Ecija prayed for rain for his crops. As he went to the chapel in the afternoon, his daughter, Janina, said, “Here is the umbrella, Tatay.” “What do we need it for,” he asked. “You prayed for rain this morning, and don’t you expect God will send it?” They carried the umbrella, and when they came home they were glad to take shelter under it from the drenching storm.
God had promised Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. In our First Reading, we come to the story of Abraham's greatest trial. God had given Isaac to Abraham as a miracle child. Now, Abraham was asked to sacrifice what was most valuable to him. God instructs Abraham to take his son Isaac, the son of promise, and sacrifice him on a mountain God would tell him about. Abraham believed God’s promise. He believed after he sacrifices his son to the Lord, He would raise him up so that the promises previously made by Him would be fulfilled. In fact, he even told his servants that he and Isaac would return after worshiping, "Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” Abraham believed that God would find a way as long as he was obedient. Abraham had seen God do great things, not the least of which was allowing a 100 year old man and his 90 year old wife have a healthy baby. That itself is amazing, so when God says to take Isaac, his only son and sacrifice him as a burnt offering he complies without hesitation. Because of the great faith Abraham had shown in Him, God made him the human channel through which the world would see the outpouring of His redemptive plan. Indeed, faith tested is faith strengthened. Faith and trust in God will be rewarded.
Jessica and Phil, married for 15 years, began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea that Jessica had. For one month they planned to drop a slip in a "Fault" box. The boxes would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations. Jessica was diligent in her efforts and approach: "makes a ridiculous amount of noise when eating," "runs the tap while brushing teeth – at full pelt," "has the shower curtain outside the bath, instead of inside," "throws dirty underwear and socks right next to the laundry bin," "leaving the jelly top off the jar," "wet towels on the shower floor," "leaving the cap off the toothpaste," on and on until the end of the month. After dinner, at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same, the message on each slip was, "I love you!" "I love you!" "I love you!".
In the middle of his letter to the Romans, Paul, after having considered the plan that God intends to carry out the salvation of all people, cannot help but cry out all his joy: "If God is with us, who shall be against us?" He then uses an imagery of a legal case. Sinners are brought before the court of God, to support and appeal the process for their actions. They know they are guilty, but, having arrived at the place of judgment, no one shows up to accuse them and no court stands up to condemn them. God, the only one who could stand as a witness, is instead the one who defends them. Here, the apostle Paul reminds us that God does not want to condemn us. He has sent his Son to die for us and to make the sacrificial offering which brings about our salvation. How can God condemn us, after having loved us to the point of offering His own Son for our salvation?
What was your last experience of awe? What stopped you and caught your attention? Today, many people hike mountains for a mystical experience to become one with nature or with God. There’s something powerful and majestic about mountains. And our ancient ancestors felt the same way. Mountains are often used in the Bible as the stages of important encounters between God and his people. Noah’s ark landed at Mt. Ararat where he saw the rainbow of God’s promise. Abraham's obedience was tested at Mt. Moriah. Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. Elijah proved to the people that God is the one true God at Mt. Carmel. Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on Mount Eremos. He was crucified on Mount Calvary and ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet. There is always something awe-inspiring about mountains. The top of a mountain is a natural place for encountering God. It's small wonder that many monasteries, seminaries, convents and retreat centers nowadays were built to sit on mountains and hills!
Our Gospel today begins with Jesus inviting his disciples Peter, James, and John up a mountain. And while there, the disciples see Jesus transfigured, a word that means transformed, but in a deeply spiritual sense. Jesus’ clothes were gleaming white as he talked with Moses and Elijah. The disciples experienced such delight on Mount Tabor that they wanted to stay there. Peter wants to remain on the mountain and continue bathing in the glory of divine love. Jesus told Peter that they couldn’t stay on the mountain. God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the summits. It is not God’s will that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don’t live there. We don’t stay there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below. The Holy Mass is our mountain-top experience. In the joy and consolation of encountering Jesus in Word and Bread, we say with Peter, “Oh Master, how good it is for us to be here!” And we do not want to leave. But it is not to be. Soon we will hear the words, “The Mass has been offered. Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.” We can’t stay because Jesus calls us out into our families, neighborhoods and where ever else He leads. Let us be counted among those who listen to Christ’s Word and are transfigured by it. May we climb the mountains in our lives and bring the glory of God with us on our way down as we come back to the world to seek out God’s love pouring through the poor, suffering, rejected and abandoned. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum