The 2nd Sunday of Lent
(Genesis 22: 1 – 2, 9a, 10 – 13, 15 – 18; Ps:116; Romans 8: 31b – 34; Mark 9: 1 – 10)
“God put Abraham to the test” – and it really was… THE test”, named by
rabbis the “akidah” – “the binding.” Abraham is called by God to an act of
total surrender, an act that we find horrific; having given up his past when he
migrated at Gods’ command, now he is to give up his future with no one to
continue his name. God’s words to Abraham underline the depth of the
sacrifice: “Take your SON, Isaac, your ONLY one, WHOM YOU LOVE …you
shall offer him up as a holocaust.” In the translation from Hebrew to
English, there is a word missing, the word is “please” – “please take your
son” – the command, as terrible as it is, is softened by that “please.” God
knows what this test means for this man, whose obedience is extravagant.
Then, before the holocaust can take place, God intervenes; Abraham’s faith,
devotion, obedience is startling, complete; by God’s grace he will become the
father of many descendants and truly our father in faith but, first there was
The divine intervention Abraham experienced is also that of St. Paul in his
letter to the Romans. And I believe it is this sacred intervention that Jesus
Himself experienced and the disciples saw and heard on the high mountain.
Paul writes and proclaims God’s extravagant mercy because, at Paul’s own
confession, he learned it from the Lord Himself and no one else. Paul knew
firsthand God’s merciful intervention. In our journey of faith, with all its ups
and downs, we are graced to know that, in every situation, God is intervening
for us – our God not only forgives, He goes beyond that – He acquits – He
loves us into freedom, into peace – at every moment the Lord Jesus, at the
Father’s right hand, intercedes for us.
Jesus is moved to take Peter, James, and John up a high mountain, and there,
He is totally transfigured. Splendor and glory radiate from Him terrifying the
disciples. It appears that Jesus Himself had a concern about what happened
so He charges them not to relate this mysterious event until after the
resurrection. Could this transfiguration not be the intervention of the
Father? Could it not have been the Father’s affirmation of His beloved Son?
Notice the Gospel proclaims, “And He was transfigured before them” – not
that He transfigured Himself! The word of the Father is a strong affirmation,
a verbal embrace: “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
These divine interventions bring to mind the word “Covenant.” Our God is
the God of covenant, of sacred relationship, a kind of pact unconditional,
enduring no matter what. In this Covenant of love God is always present and
at work; as St. Paul proclaims so simply and directly “God is for us” and
nothing can change this. We, too, experience this covenant intervention in
our own lives – like Abraham God calls, directs, inspires, leads us. Like Paul,
God reveals Himself to us in our prayer, meditations, in the events of life.
Like Jesus, God affirms, consoles, embraces us in our faith journey, and in
our case, He mercifully forgives.
These divine interventions, these acts of covenant are sometimes very
subtle, sometimes loud and clear. In either case, we need to listen with
desire, desire that is always a gift of God. The greatest intervention, act of
covenant, in our lives is the Holy Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The
Eucharist is the permeation of our “I” with the “You” of the Risen One and
the opening up of our “I” into that “You’.” Intervention received, covenant
celebrated – a kind of transfiguring – the Holy Eucharist!
In God’s covenant love, His interventions, we experience and know the
Father’s exceeding love, the Son’s unspeakable mercy, and the Spirit’s
indescribable tenderness – not three separate realities – rather one – God