• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

2nd Sunday of Lent (B)

“Putting God first ...”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps (27(26):8-9 — “Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His face. It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not Your face from me.”

First Reading: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 — “The sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 — “I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.”

Second Reading: Rom 8:31b-34 — “God did not spare His own Son.”

Verse before the Gospel: Mt 17:5 — “From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.”

Gospel: Mk 9:2-10 — “This is My beloved Son.”

Communion Antiphon: Mt 15:5 — “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

On this last weekend in February, when we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Lent, many lessons can be gathered from the story of Isaac and Abraham. At first, God appears to be asking the impossible of him: to surrender his only son through mortal sacrifice. But perhaps what is really being asked for here is trust, faith and total self-gift back to God – in the same way that God has been all, and only, total self-gift to us.

I make that statement because ... notice ... Abraham does not actually kill his son. Nor does God actually demand it. He simply tells Abraham to prepare the sacrifice [of course with the implication that it would be carried out], and then stops him. And Abraham’s willingness to comply is not reflective of aberrant behavior, but representative of complete vulnerability and a willingness to put love of God before any and every other attachment and affection. If God were to ask that of you ... to sacrifice a child or some other thing you hold dear ... would you be able in complete faith and trust to do it? That’s a pretty tough act to follow.

Let me go on by saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law ... He is the fulfillment of the predictions of the prophets. The Transfiguration took place in a context very different from our world today. For His disciples and listeners in first-century Palestine, there would have been no higher authority on the Law than Moses. There would have been no greater prophet than Elijah. Jesus’ appearance with both of these men shows His closest followers a truth that cannot be clearly defined with words. Jesus is more than the Law. He is greater than any prophet. He is not just a great man among great men. He is the very God those men worshipped. Moses and Elijah were two men of the covenant who also gave their all to God, withholding nothing. In their carrying out of God’s divine plan, they prefigure Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His all to God, putting His love for God, and for us, above all else to the point of sacrificing His own life for the sake of obedience to God’s will. And He now intercedes for us ... as we, too, strive to put God ahead of all things.

Saint Paul reminds the Romans, just as he is reminding each and every one of us today, that Jesus always intercedes for us to the Father. To paraphrase Saint Paul: “Our God did not spare His own Son to prove just how far He is willing to go for each one of us. And so, will He not provide whatever we truly need throughout our journey of life?”

Every year on the Second Sunday of Lent, the pre-Resurrection event of the Transfiguration of Jesus is proclaimed. It sets the stage for the Passion of Christ to unfold right before the disciples and strengthen their resolve to endure what was coming.

Jesus Christ crucified ... Jesus Christ glorified ... Jesus Christ is the One who gives us the strength to work through our own personal ways of the cross that end with “Resurrection grace.” Think of “Resurrection grace” as the grace of letting go of fear ... the grace of letting go of the transient and focusing on the eternal ... the grace of vulnerability that allows us to put love of God before any and every other attachment and affection.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life”(Jn 3:16). Today we have the examples of Abraham ... Moses ... Elijah ... Jesus ... those who put love of God before all else. In this season of Lent, and in every season, it is my prayer and I hope yours, that we may all have the grace to put love of God before any other and every other attachment and affection ... in other words ... to put love of God before all else.

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