Readings: Gen 12:1-4; 2 Tim 1:8-10; Matt 17:1-9
Call of Abraham, obedience, undeserved blessings, new beginning, choosing Christ, the ultimate blessing. These phrases help us to focus more deeply on the message of this Sunday. The first reading from Genesis leads us into the most significant event for God’s people in the Old Testament, namely the call of Abraham. To understand the call of Abraham we need to know the context out of which he was called. That call reveals God’s plan for the chosen people. Abraham is called into a land the Lord would show him; from a land he knew best into the unknown. The city of Ur (in present day Iraq) was a large city with spacious streets and large markets. It was a prosperous city with dazzling technology of the day. For the majority of the people in Ur the only thing that seemed to matter most was prosperity. The people’s ancient religion centered on a life-force or fertility gods. Their rites involved orgies complete with temple prostitutes – male and female. They also had human sacrifices including infants. Their gods demanded more and more blood of children. That was evidently a culture of death. It was those terrible gods Abraham was told to leave. The gods of our culture today are remarkably similar to those Abraham was asked to leave and go to a land the Lord would show him. Through the media we are daily sucked into a culture of consumerism, a culture of violence and of death. Like Abraham we are being called to leave our country and culture, to a land the Lord will show us. We are challenged to have faith like that of Abraham, who leaves everything behind in deep trust, knowing that God would never fail him. God promised Abraham undeserved blessings for his obedience, a clear manifestation of God’s mercy. The Second Reading connects well with the First Reading as Paul exhorts Timothy to accept the misfortunes that come along with discipleship; the trials that are part of a life of righteousness; a life of holiness, similar to that of Abraham, enduring his journey in faith and trust into the unknown.
In the Gospel, Jesus takes his closest disciples apart on the mountain where his glory is revealed –the transfiguration. As in the call of Abraham, Jesus calls each of us to a new land, to leave behind the pagan gods of our culture and the values of prosperity and consumerism. The way to avoid being sucked into a terrible culture of death is to go on retreat with Jesus like the three disciples. There on the mountain, Jesus will give us a glimpse of his own identity as God’s Son, leading us to listen to his teaching. During this Lenten season, we look to Jesus for inspiration; He is our model of obedience. Only through that obedience will Jesus give us what really matters most – God’s blessings. But like the three disciples, we would like to settle in the comfort of Christ’s glory on the mountain. We resist accepting the hard way through discipline to glory; we resist taking the road to through cross. Paul in the second reading helps us to understand that our discipleship is not only a journey into the unknown, but also includes bearing our share of hardship; in includes growth into holiness through discipline. The message of this Sunday may be summed up in a few points. 1) Like Abraham, we are called to leave our country and culture of death; to be radically different from what the world around us expects: to be part of a new culture of life; a new way of life in Christ. But the question before us is: can we withstand the seductions of today’s culture? Yes, we can. Can we overcome today’s subtle persecution and mockery due to our Catholic values and beliefs? Yes, we can. 2) While it is tough being faithful Christians in today’s culture, we can live our faith because God in Christ gives us the strength to be always faithful. 3) We are called to bear our share of the cross through self-discipline and obedience. As ridiculous as that may seem to others, choosing faithfulness brings God’s blessings in the end.
©2017 John S. Mbinda