Daily Reflection
March 19th, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Psalms 116:10, 15-19
Romans 8:31-34
Mark 9:2-10

We have heard many stories of parents sacrificing their lives for their own children.  Today we hear the famous story from the Hebrew Scriptures of a father being commanded by God to sacrifice his only son.   Abraham responds in faith and takes his son Isaac to an altar of offering and is ready to "slaughter" him, but the test of faith is over as a messenger from heaven intercedes and Abraham is rewarded for his being obedient.  This seems to make God a bit of a trickster, who makes faith an experience of mental cruelty.

The second reading upgrades the image of God quite a bit.  Paul writes to the community in Rome that God is for us and so we do not have to defend ourselves from anybody's condemnation, not even from God.  While listening to this reading, we still have one cautious eye on the Trickster-God and find ourselves wondering which image of God is worth our trusting.

The Gospel presents us with a third image, a "transfigured" image at that.  Simon, "the Rock" and the two "Sons of Thunder," James and John, follow Jesus up a mountain and strange things happen.  Two of the Hebrew prophets appear talking with Jesus and then, as happened in the first reading, a voice comes from heaven saying, "This is my beloved son.  Listen to him." 

Abraham found a ram to sacrifice, taking the place of his only son.  Jesus is pictured as the new Isaac and takes His place as the "lamb" to be slain.  As they return down the mountain, His three followers are wondering what this has all been about and what does, "rising from the dead mean?"  How can this be the "beloved son," and be talking about dying?

Is God a trickster putting us to one test and an other as we live this difficult human life?  Is God for us in such a way that we need not fear when we fail one test or other?  Is Jesus the beloved son so that we want to follow him down off the mountains of "transfiguration" and peace and joy into the valleys of spiritual "disfiguration?" 

It is Lent and a time for praying with our false and true images of God.  It would be hard to have the faith of Abraham unless we had some picture or experience of Who this God is.  The early Apostles had a deep encounter with Jesus on that mountain.  Abraham must have had such intimate encounters with God so as to have a trust so great that he could take the life of his only son, because God had asked it of him.  The mountain on which this holocaust would take place was called, "God Will Provide."  On the mountain of Transfiguration, God provided a blessing over the Lamb Who would be sacrificed on the next mountain of crucifixion.

The Apostles who were there to witness the event in today's gospel would run away from the Lamb's being slain, but would live their lives out, witnessing to His rising.  Their question about what that "rising from the dead" meant would be made clear in their preaching and bringing into birth the "new Church."  We listen prayerfully to today's readings, trying to trust God as did Abraham, knowing that we have flight-tendencies ourselves from the crosses of our lives and hoping that God will always be for us.

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