2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B.
Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18 – Romans 8:31-34 – Mark 9:2-10.
The catechist was teaching the class about Abraham’s exemplary obedience to God and his unshakeable faith in God. William was not paying attention. He was daydreaming. His body was present and taking up space, but his mind was miles away. During the quick quiz towards the end of the class, William came down to earth with a bump when he found himself being asked, “In the Old Testament, who is called ‘our father in Faith’, William?” The cogs of his mind whirred, and he piped up, “Our Father who art in heaven…”
Oops, wrong ‘father’, William!
Let us reflect on the Lenten theme of ‘a time to make a special sacrifice’. In today’s 1st Reading we heard how Abraham responded when God tested whether or not his devotion and obedience to Him extended beyond his devotion to his only son. Was Abraham willing to maintain his trust in God and in what He had promised him in the face of being asked to sacrifice his beloved only child? He was!
Abraham’s sacrifice in faith. God tested Abraham’s faith in Him by commanding him to offer in sacrifice his only son Isaac. God intervened when He saw how far Abraham was prepared to go out of obedience and love for Him, and He provided the sacrificial victim Himself. The faith of Abraham was unshakeable, in the sense that he went forward having placed his trust entirely in God. He did not know the reasons behind God’s command but he was prepared to fulfil it anyway, prepared to sacrifice even the son he treasured, the son that God had promised would have descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore (v.12). Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son whom God had promised would be his heir because he believed that God would give Isaac back to him (v.19). In faith, Abraham clung to the hope and expectation that God would find a way to give Isaac back to him.
God’s sacrifice in love. When we look at what God commanded Abraham to do, we are appalled, revolted, because the command appears at first sight to require him to cross a boundary into the demonic. The command doesn’t seem to make sense because God is Good, God is Love, so why would He command Abraham to do something bad? Why would He demand that Abraham sacrifice his son and shed his blood in the process? The point is that God does not command us to do something that He is not prepared to do for us! The 1st Reading gives us a foretaste of what God accomplished for us, sinful humanity, in and through His Son. In the 2nd Reading, St Paul tells us of God the Father’s sacrifice of His own Son, stating that, God did not spare his own Son but gave him up to benefit us all (v.32). God the Father spared Isaac on the altar of sacrifice, but His only-begotten Son – Our Lord Jesus Christ – offered Himself willingly on the cross as the sacrificial victim for our justification. In today’s Gospel reading, the Transfiguration of the Lord, Peter, James and John heard the voice of God the Father confirming that Jesus is His beloved Son (v.8).
We received the ultimate gift from God when He made the ultimate sacrifice of His Son for us, For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Take time this Lent to ponder on the fact that God’s love for us is so utterly extraordinary and heavenly that He made the sacrifice of His beloved only-begotten Son for us, to effect our salvation and to restore the prospect of eternal bliss in heaven with Him for eternity at the end of this life.
Implications for us. Our aim should be to develop such strong faith and trust in God’s love for us, and consequently be willing and able to make a sacrifice that costs us personally and benefits others. The voice of God commands us to “listen to Him”, to ‘listen to Jesus’. Abraham listened to God whom he knew to be faithful, and he did exactly as he was told by God. His response was counted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6), and Abraham became our father in faith (Rom 4:1ff). Moses heard the voice of God speaking to him through the burning bush and he listened, risking his life by going back to Egypt to save the people of Israel (Ex ch 3). Elijah’s first mission was to risk his life in delivering a prophecy to King Ahab (1Ki ch 17). God is reminding us that we should listen to His Son. This Lent we are to ‘listen to Him’ in order to learn from Him the sacrifice He requires of us.
What sacrifice of something precious to you can you make for your own good and for the good of others this Lent? Itemize the sacrifice you are willing to make to benefit others as much as yourself spiritually. Listen to the still small voice of God (1Ki 19:12) speaking to you interiorly, to the voice of Jesus urging you to tread His path of ultimate sacrifice. What is it that you are hugging to yourself that God is asking you to give up for His sake? What is He requesting you to offer Him that is really, really difficult for you to give Him?
Let us pray: Lord God, please help me to respond positively to Your voice prompting me to focus my gaze on Jesus, and help me to understand what sacrifices you require of me this Lent. Help me to know Your will, O Lord, so that my Lenten fast may bring me ever-closer to You and benefit both me and other people.
Amen. God bless you.