2nd Sunday of Lent
At a recent meeting, someone was recounting a conversation he had with a young man who was interested in monastic life. The conversation went on well. At some point, he said to the young man ‘You know of course that if you enter you will have to give up things you take for granted, like your cell phone for instance’ The conversation died there. The young man was quiet and then said quite candidly ‘That is the game changer’
I recount this not to speak about cell phones. Today the Church puts before us the beautiful gospel of the Transfiguration. We see what we will becomes one day. We will be glorious one day. This is the great hope we live in. However, it is not something that just happens by going with the flow. The Gospel is full of light but we should not think it just happens. There are always game changers that disrupt us on our way to God.
In the first reading. Abraham is confronted with a game changer of such a magnitude that we wonder how a human being could have borne such an insupportable burden. Abraham, Abraham’ the Lord called out to him ‘Take your son, Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height I will point out to you.’ It is as if God Himself was aware of what He was asking of Abraham. ‘Take your son, Isaac, your only one, whom you love’.
We all know how the story is going to end. We know God will tell Abraham to stop. God will provide a ram for the sacrifice. But Abraham did not know this in advance. Sacrifice a human being, an only son, the son he waited for so long. It could not be. But it was. Of course Abraham does not sacrifice his son. And all of us who are caught up in the dramatic tension of this story, breathe a huge sigh of relief. Abraham is let off the hook and we are relieved because we hope we will be. But this is where we fail to appreciate what is happening at the deeper level.
When God calls to Abraham, as I pointed out, He very explicitly lingers over Isaac – ‘your only son, and ‘son whom you love’ Then on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father refers to Jesus as ‘His beloved Son’ – once again a son who is loved. Except in this case, there is no one to let God off the hook. Abraham is let off the hook, his beloved son, the son he loves is saved and we are let off the hook simply because God is not let off the hook. His beloved Son, the Son, His only Son whom He loves is crucified. There was no one to rescue Him. There was no ram caught in the thicket for Jesus. He was the lamb caught in the thicket of our sins. We can focus so much on the light of the Transfiguration that we forget it comes with the price tag of the cross. It is not cheap grace.
In fact, this gospel of the Transfiguration has two book ends which we usually forget about. Just before they go up the mountain it, Peter makes his confession of faith in Jesus and when Jesus speaks of the Cross, Peter remonstrates with Him. Peter wants cheap grace. Jesus uses very strong language –get behind me Satan. Coming down the mountain Jesus speaks about rising from the dead and still the disciples do not get it. They were heavy with the sleep of denial. They could not look at the cross.
There was and probably still is, this cry in us to avoid making Christianity into Crosstrianity. In others word, the focus is to be on the light, Easter alone without becoming the morbid Catholics we previously were- just focusing on the Cross. Like Peter it is a call for cheap grace. But this is not how it is. If we forget this, we do God a great disservice. We show the greatest ingratitude to Him. He had one Son too, a beloved One who was not spared. We got off the hook but God stood in the breach for us. We cannot forget the Cross and the love at the heart of the light. We cannot forget that we have been bought at a supreme price –the price of God’s only beloved Son. This is the great game changer and this will shape our lives too
If we have died and been buried with Christ through thought baptism, then this game changer will shape our lives. We will be graced but it will not be cheap grace. It asks everything of us, all our Isaacs, all our attachments, all our addictions, everything. If we want the light. It will not happen automatically. We will have game changers to confront, game changers which will disrupt our own lives – some of them small and some of them shattering. They will be moments of choice for us. Will we choose darkness, cut loose and run? Or will we choose light and embrace the cross, God sends us with hope and trust.