SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT (February 25, 2018)
This story of Abraham is scary. In the first reading, Abraham did not know as he climbed Mt. Moriah that his son would be spared at the last second. He came from the land of Ur where child sacrifice was common. Some years before, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had been sent into a spasm of laughter when God told them at their advanced age that they would have a child. Sarah stopped laughing when she found she was pregnant with the future Isaac. Isaac comes from the Hebrew verb, “to laugh.”
Isaac was growing nicely and loved dearly when the Lord told Abraham that he must go to mount Moriah and sacrifice his only son, knowing that that would end his dream of being the founding father of the nation the Lord had promised.
Abraham’s heart was heavier than the wood he carried on his back; the pain of grief was sharper in his heart than the knife in his belt as he and Isaac trudged up Mt. Moriah.
Abraham is called in our Eucharistic Prayer “Our father in faith.” Today’s first reading tells us why. His faith, that is, his trust in God’s promise, was as high as the mountain he was climbing.
Like Abraham and everyone else, each of us carries a vision of the life ahead of us. We do not know for sure whether that vision will be future reality. But, many of us take our vision as pretty much a given reality-- until something happens. More mature men and women know that totally unforeseen events can upend that vision. A spouse or a child has an accident; our lives will never be the same. A child is born with Downs Syndrome or is severely handicapped; the family will never be the same. A family home is destroyed in a Florida hurricane, a California earthquake or mudslide, a Louisiana flood; the family will never be the same.
Peter, James, and John were all fishermen. We can be sure that they, like us, had a vision of where their lives were going. They would probably inherit the business and the boats from their father Zebedee. Peter, we know was married -- no mention of children. Surely each had to reconstruct his vision of life when Jesus invited, “Come, and follow me.” A new vision was formed.
At first, James and John missed the message; we have heard them arguing about who would be sitting next to Jesus when the earthly kingdom - as they envisioned it - would come. Their second vision of life had to be reconstructed; Jesus would not be the conquering Messiah who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to glory on earth.
Mark sandwiched the story of the transfiguration between Jesus’ predictions of his passion and death. That is the event that puts in perspective Jesus’ suffering and death. The cloud of glory is meant to evaporate the cloud of gloom that came with realization of suffering, rejection, and inevitable murder.
In today’s Gospel we read of Peter, James, and John who experienced what has come to be called “The Transfiguration.” We hear that Peter who could so regularly put his foot in his mouth, “hardly knew what to say.” That had to be a low voltage transfiguration for Peter.
In our most difficult times, when our vision of the direction of our life is shattered by illness, death, loss of job, loss of a relationship, financial nose-dive. We need to remember our peak moments - times when God was present to us, was walking beside us -- sometimes dramatically, more often not dramatically.
And God has been present. If we cannot remember any times, we may need to be more introspective. As the author of “Footprints” recalled: when there was only one set of footprints in the sand, those were the times when the Lord was doing the carrying -- and we were not even aware. These recollections give us courage for the times when we have to pick up and go on.
We also know the fact that at the end of our journey we too will be in the presence of the great light at the end of the tunnel - our transfiguration for all eternity.