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Friday, 23 February 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent Year B 2018

          2nd. Sunday of Lent (B)                      (Gen. 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10)

Our Blessed Lord’s Passion and Death was looming on the horizon and He had already seriously forewarned His disciples of it; but, as in so many other matters, they were not yet able to truly understand and fully appreciate His words.  When the time would come for Him to be taken away from them, Jesus realized that it would be a traumatic and potentially faith-shattering experience for them, His great concern was, therefore, that they should be so prepared that they might be able to endure the grief of losing Him and even draw spiritual profit from His own steadfast confidence in His Father and love for them throughout His Passion.  He could not spare them that trial, but He would not have them agonize themselves and lose faith in Him because of it.

How then did Jesus go about this preparation of His disciples?  Considering His later Agony in the Garden, there can be no doubt that He prayed most fervently to His heavenly Father about it.   Let us try to learn something of the efficacy of that prayer.

The bond between her Son here on earth and His heavenly Father was something that the Blessed Virgin Mary could not fully appreciate, something that once caused her to exclaim: ‘Son, why have You done this to Your father and I?’  On that occasion, instead of returning home from Jerusalem with the caravan, Jesus, after having become ‘officially’ a young man-before-God-and-for-God according to the Law, had remained there in the Temple at Jerusalem.

After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).

Jesus was delighting in His heavenly Father, as He spoke about Him with the doctors and teachers in the Temple.

Years later, as a fully-grown man He went to search out John the Baptist ‘at God’s work’ so to speak; this was at His Father’s secret calling as is confirmed by His Father’s voice from heaven, for He the Father alone knew when and how He wanted His Son to begin His public ministry.

And now here, the Father, in answer to Jesus’ supplication, had plans to comfort and confirm His Son by sending Moses and Elijah – representing the whole of God’s dispensation for the sanctification of Israel through the Law and the Prophets – to emphasize for Jesus that His coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection would be the culmination and fulfilment of all Israel’s hopes and of all His, God’s, salvation plans for His Chosen People and through them, subsequently, for the whole of mankind.  Moreover, Jesus’ chosen Apostles there on the Mount with Him would see and be brought to experience this glorification of their Lord as the fulfilment of Israel’s Law and Prophets, before God Himself would speak Personally from a heavenly Cloud giving testimony to His beloved and supremely obedient Son. 

That those plans and intentions of God were fulfilled is shown subsequently by Jesus own words and those also of His disciples labouring in His nascent Church:

Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, (the risen Jesus) interpreted to them (two of His followers going to Emmaus) what referred to Him in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27).

(Peter said): “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

Jesus, most certainly, did not lead His three disciples up the mountain to display Himself; He simply knew, as Man, that He needed to pray; He also knew He had little time to prepare even those three chosen disciples for what was soon to happen, which is why He took them with Him that they might be near Him – as later in the Garden of Gethsemane -- when He was praying for guidance and grace.

The wondrous answer to and fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer on that mountain top, was His Father’s own manifest appreciation of Jesus’ longing to Personally give glory to His most Holy Name (John 18:11):

Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?  

and also, through His disciples’ future vocational work as leaders in His Church for the Nations, to offer all mankind salvation in and through the proclamation of His Gospel and the bestowal of His Gift of the most Holy Spirit.

Jesus was aware that His disciples were, at present, rejoicing in the presence of their Lord: He was the Bridegroom and they were the Bridegroom’s most privileged friends.  However, such present, earthly, joy, though holy, would not be enough to sustain them through the trials that lay ahead of them.  And that, People of God, is something we should notice. Joy in the Lord based largely on emotional experiences would, most certainly, not be enough for Jesus‘ disciples, nor can it suffice for us: their joy, their love, had to be firmly established, as must ours also, on Faith, shot-through and made incandescent, with Hope.  Therefore:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 

Now, however, as the three disciples looked:

A cloud came, casting a shadow over them; and from the cloud came a voice, "This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him!"

These words from heaven were given to root the disciples’ joy-in-the-Lord to the faith, proclaimed, by Moses and the Prophets, which had sustained Israel over many centuries.  For, throughout Israel’s wanderings in the desert, the presence of God’s glory among them in the Tent of Meeting had been manifested by a cloud descending upon the Tent.  That same cloud had also covered Mount Sinai when the Law was being given to Moses; and now it was covering the disciples here on the mountain of Transfiguration, and from it a voice was telling them to listen to the law of Jesus.  The disciples could have no doubt about the voice speaking to them from the cloud: “This is My beloved Son.  Listen to Him!”  It was indeed the voice of the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus their Lord and Master.

The disciples were sharing a vision of heavenly glory and they wanted to remain there, basking, as it were, in the glory of Jesus: 
Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us make three tents: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

That was not to be.  For the present they had already been given what was necessary: a vision of faith in the heavenly glory of Jesus, and a hope that would inspire and sustain them in an insatiable longing to share with Him in His glory.  Now, to finally galvanize them to put on this new armour of salvation and prepare themselves for the great trauma that lay ahead they were given a command: “Listen to Him.”

Long ago, as the disciples knew full well, Moses had spoken of a prophet like himself whom the Lord God would give to His people (Deuteronomy 18:15):

A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.

Those very words “Listen to Him” were now ringing in their ears!

Now, the disciples were ready indeed to descend from the top of the mountain; for their faith -- rooted in the faith that had sustained and guided their fathers for over two millennia -- had been transfigured into the Christian faith, and they had been strengthened with hope which no earthly trials could ever take away from them: for now they had a vision of Jesus’ heavenly glory, though hidden as yet from earthly eyes; now, they had an eschatological hope to look forward to; now, they had a divine revelation and commission to hold on to. From now on they would be guided and sustained in all their difficulties by a sure and undoubting confidence in the goodness of God, unflinching faith and trust in Jesus’ Person and commands, and unshakable hope in the power of His guiding, ever-present, Spirit of Love and Truth.

People of God, see and learn how to protect yourselves against the snares of the devil and of the world: delight in the heavenly Jesus more and more, for we are not mere moralists -- be they scholarly ethicists or ordinary/professional ‘do-gooders’ -- we are lovers and proclaimers of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour who trust in the traditional teaching of His Church and never give up hoping that the goodness of God will lead us -- if we persevere faithfully along the way of the Cross -- to share in the eternal glory of Jesus before the Father.

Trust the faith.  Trust God’s words as did Abraham our father in faith, who, as you heard, was tested by God saying to him:

Take now 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 that I will point out to you.

How fearsome and dread did those words sound at first!  How wonderfully, how beautifully, did they echo when the Lord gave the boy back to his father, resolving to become Himself the Only One Who would offer His only-begotten Son for mankind’s salvation.   How wonderful are the blessings won for us by Abraham’s obedience and trust, he was and is most truly our Father in Faith!

Trust the Faith wholeheartedly and thus enable yourselves to delight freely and fully, and yet more wholeheartedly, in Jesus, for, as St. Paul explains: 

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.      (Romans 8:38-39)
Again I repeat: trust the faith, delight in Jesus, and thank God for His unfailing goodness.   In that way you will be armed both to resist and to overcome all that the devil and the world can try to do against you: 

For the joy of the LORD is your strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)