2nd Sunday of Lent B

Because you obeyed my command

Silvanus was an abbot who lived in the Egyptian desert in the fifth century. He had twelve young monks as disciples, but of these he favored most the monk Marcus, who also happened to be an expert copyist of manuscripts. The eleven other monks felt that Silvanus should show no monk special favor, and their complaints about his partiality became known to several senior hermits who lived nearby. The seniors agreed that one should not play favorites, so they came to ask Silvanus why he rated Marcus higher than the rest.

Silvanus came out of his cell and told the visitors to follow him. He began knocking at the doors of his disciples, saying to each, “Brother, come, I have need of you.” The eleven monks refused his order, one after the other. Then the Abbot knocked at the door of Marcus’ cell. “Marcus!” he called out. As soon as Marcus heard the Master’s voice, he came to the door. Silvanus sent him on some errand and he went off at once to perform it.

“Did the others obey?” Silvanus asked his callers. “Now come inside.” They all entered Marcus’ cell and surrounded his writing desk. “Look at that manuscript that Marcus was writing.” They looked at it carefully and noticed the last letter. Marcus had been writing an “O” when the Abbot called him, but he had finished only one curve. So obedient was he that he had left the letter unfinished when he heard the voice of Silvanus.

“I love Marcus more than the others,” said the Abbot, “because he is more obedient than the others.” The old monks agreed. “Truly, we also love Marcus whom you love, for God loves him.”

God loved Abraham, too, because of his utter obedience. How do we rate obedience?

…I will bless you abundantly … because you obeyed my command. (Genesis 22:18 R Today’s first reading)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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B206: Why did only Elijah and Moses appear to Jesus on the mountaintop (Mark 9:2-10)? Why not Abraham, David, and others?

A famous Dominican preacher (Fr. Jude) suggests that it is the roles of prophet and Messiah that are being highlighted here in this gospel setting.(1) Both Moses and Elijah were considered to be prophets, and Moses was always associated with the Law. Elijah was even expected by the Jews to return as the Messiah, and an empty seat was (and still is) kept for him at both the Seder Passover meal and at a brit or bris, the male ritual of circumcision. On the other hand, David and Abraham are not associated with the role of prophet or messiah, therefore there is no need for them to be in this scene.

Jesus is transfigured, and his “dazzling” glory is shown to Peter, James and John. Then Elijah and Moses appear, and Jesus engages them in conversation. Then, somehow, Elijah and Moses “dissolve away” and simply disappear. Only Jesus remains! And a heavenly voice booms out, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” The royal line of Abraham through David now culminates in Jesus, the King of Kings; Jesus is the priest, prophet and king par excellence. The law and the prophets all become fulfilled in Jesus alone.

Now it is our turn to be transfigured, to become like Christ in our daily lives. He is the Prince of Peace, not war. He is the Light of the World, not darkness. He is compassionate, merciful, meek – am I taking on these habits, these virtues, as a disciple of His?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The gospel today links the past, present and future. Transfiguration gives us a “peek” at the Kingdom, as Jesus reveals his divine glory (CCC #554-555). We have the Holy Trinity represented in the voice (The Father), the cloud (Holy Spirit), and Jesus transfigured. This Trinity comes to live within us at our Baptism, and the Transfiguration story reminds us of our destiny (CCC #556). Lent is a time of Surrender, giving up our old ways so that we can be transformed back into the image God wants us to have. We achieve this through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; what is our progress so far this Lent?

(1) Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions.”

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Q518: Why did Jesus tell the three apostles to be quiet about what they saw and heard up on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-10)?

If you had been up there with Peter, James and John, what would you have wanted to do? Wouldn’t you just be busting at the seams, ready to tell all your friends and family about witnessing the great transformation of Jesus into “shining glory”? Wouldn’t you have been ready and desirous of telling everyone that “Hey, our Messiah is here”? Would you not have wanted to share the spectacular vision of Jesus, Moses and Elijah in conversation? And also what that “voice from heaven” said? Of course you would want to do all of that!

And Jesus knew that. But he also knew that the Israelites were looking for a political Messiah, one who would save them from Roman oppression. If the three apostles went around blabbing about what they had seen, no one would have understood the reality. Yes, Jesus was the messiah; however, he was not a political messiah like the Jewish people had been expecting, based on their vision of King David and the promises made to him. Instead, Jesus was going to be a “suffering servant” messiah, and his way of conquering — by love, by means of the cross — would not be understood at all. It definitely was not understood by Peter, James and John, as the gospel story tells us. That would have to wait until the Resurrection and Pentecost.

Isn’t hindsight wonderful? Through God’s gracious gift of faith, today we understand that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and that the cross he was facing was in fact the means of our redemption. Since we DO understand that, we are not required to “keep silent” about it. On the contrary, faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17), so we need to spread the Good News! We know now more than Peter, James and John did at the time of the Transfiguration! Don’t waste that knowledge! Be a light to the nations!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! You believe the Father, when he commanded, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!” (CCC #151). Are you listening to Jesus daily in your scripture meditation, and also obeying him?

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Take your Son, Your Only One

Many people react with horror to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. How could a good God demand such a thing? The gods of Israel’s neighbors did demand and get the sacrifice of children, especially the first born male. The story in the Hebrew bible was meant to teach not only the importance of faith, but that child sacrifice was unacceptable to God. However, by reading this story in conjunction with the other two readings of today’s Mass, we can learn another lesson. St. Paul reminds us that while God in the end did not take Abraham’s son he give his own beloved son The account of the Transfiguration right after Jesus’ prediction of his passion and death reminds us that the glory of the resurrection can only be found through the cross. Our Christian faith tells us that death leads to life, that degradation leads to glorification, that we can be filled by God only after emptying self. The Transfiguration is the promise of things to come that we sometimes need to remember in times of trial and testing. It is only through faith and trust in God’s goodness that we can say with Jesus, “Let it be as You would have it, not as I would have it.”

Lord, God, loving Father, help me to respond when You ask me to sacrifice what I love. May Your Spirit fill me so that I may say with Jesus, “Thy will be done” so may rise with him to glory.

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