To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 22: 1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
I still remember that night, eight years ago, when I received a call at 11.45 p.m. I knew immediately that it would be from someone with a very great need or someone in great despair. It was. The father of a young man was calling to tell me that his 23 year old son had just died. He was his only son. The boy was coming home from work when a drunk driver knocked him down and fled the scene. He was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival. At the funeral Mass the next day, there was not one person in the church who was not moved by tears by the sight of that young man in his coffin. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “How could God…” and “Why”
I do believe that the answer to our every “How could God…” and “Why” is provided for us in God sending his only son.
The first reading also speaks to us about a father and his only son. Abraham was asked to give up his only son, and this, after being promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. How could God, who had made such a promise, expect it to be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed? This kind of sacrifice would result in cutting Abraham off from his future. Abraham did not know that God was actually testing him. He heard the command from God as something that he was being called to do. However, he did know that God would provide and find a way. He believed that God could do even what was impossible. This is why his constant response to God was “Here I am”. This willingness and faith of Abraham resulted in God being able to work in and through him. It resulted in the promises of God being fulfilled in the life of Abraham. He did, indeed, become a great nation and his descendants were as numerous as grains of sand on the seashore.
The willingness and faith that Abraham showed was exemplary. However, it pales in comparison with the willingness and faith that Jesus showed when he took up his cross. This is what God commanded Jesus to do and this is what he did. While in Abraham’s case, he was stopped before he could complete the act of offering his son, in the case of Jesus, he had to go the full way to show his obedience to God’s will and fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.
We are given a foretaste of this obedience in the scene of the Transfiguration. The figures that appear with Jesus on the mountain are Elijah and Moses. These were prophets who were considered (along with Enoch) as alive in the presence of God. The voice from heaven, after addressing Jesus as beloved son, asks the three disciples who were with Jesus on the mountain to listen to him. Despite being God’s beloved son, Jesus would have to go to his suffering and death and, only then, enter his glory. There was no other way. Jesus did not simply obey God; he obeyed God because he trusted. He knew that God was in charge and, even in what seemed like defeat and death, there would be victory and new life.
We sometimes tend to think that Jesus is most clearly Son of God only in glory, not in suffering. The transfiguration challenges us to revise our understanding of how God’s presence comes to the world. Even as he stands transfigured, Jesus is aware that the cross is a certainty in his life. He is aware that, though he is beloved son, he will have to suffer and die. The command to silence, given by Jesus to the disciples, reminds us that glory and suffering cannot be separated.
Yes, Jesus was able to go to the cross in the full knowledge that God would always do what was best for him. He was aware that the God who delivered Elijah and Moses would also deliver him. He was able to go through the cross because he knew that, in and through the cross, he would save the world. That Jesus continues to live today is proof that his faith and confidence in the goodness of God was affirmed and confirmed. It was a proof that Paul experienced when he told the community in Rome that “neither death nor life…. nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
The message then, on this second Sunday of Lent, to every one of us, is that God continues to be in charge. He continues to want what is best for each of us at every moment of our life. Even at those times when we cannot see his hand as clearly as we would like, or cannot feel his presence as tangibly as we would want, he is still working for our good. This was confirmed in the life of Abraham, but fulfilled in the most perfect way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to look at his Son.