Thursday, February 22, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent Year B

Readings: Gen 22:1-2,9,10-13,18-18; Rm 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

Letting go, self-surrender, no matter how much we must give up. These are some of the phrases that help us to focus on the message of this Sunday. The readings help us to reflect on the meaning of self-surrender to the seemingly irrational demands of God. The drama of Abraham accepting to sacrifice his only son Isaac, leads us to become aware that God asks us to give up the things we value most during this Lent. Lent is an excellent moment to examine those things we hold dear, and to see the extent to which we are prepared (or unwilling) to let go. Abraham's readiness to sacrifice Isaac is an excellent example self-surrender. The episode gives us an idea of the cost, as well as the rewards of one's surrender. There is suffering to be endured, but there are blessings from God too. "Because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you…". Paul in the second reading provides an interpretation of God's promises to Abraham and Sarah citing excerpts from the First Reading of today. But Paul is very much aware of the paradox of God's demand on us; a God who, like Abraham, gives us his own example by offering his only Son. "Since God did not spare his Son…we may be certain…that He will not refuse anything He can give". Both the story of Abraham and Paul's catechesis invite us to let our fears go and surrender ourselves, no matter how much we must give up.

The Gospel is about the dramatic episode of the transfiguration on the mountain before the three disciples, Peter, James and John. The event is a clear manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God; an anticipation of his glory, beyond his death on the cross in the resurrection. Thus the transfiguration sets the stage for Jesus’ prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection. That prediction in Mark is the beginning of the intensifying enmity between Jesus and the religious leaders eventually leading to his trial, death and resurrection. The central message of the episode therefore is that God offers us his only Son Jesus, in order to save us through the Cross. There is a certain parallel here between Abraham's readiness to offer his only son Isaac to God, and the fulfilment of that story in God offering his only Son to die for our salvation. The transfiguration was one way of convincing the disciples that Jesus was truly the Son of God. They actually saw his glory. The voice coming from a cloud was perhaps the most convincing. "This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him". Thus the Gospel not only leads us to the mystery of Christ, but also invites us to listen and to surrender ourselves completely to his word that Christ may reveal himself to us. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is an excellent example for us, because the story gives us an idea of the cost, as well as the rewards of one's surrender to God. 2) Just as Jesus surrendered himself to the point of death on the cross for our salvation, we too are called to endure the cross of the Lenten penance in self-surrender. 3) We are therefore invited to open our hearts to be transformed by Christ. Concretely that means going through our Lenten discipline in order to enter into the glory of Christ’s resurrection.

©2018 John S. Mbinda

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