2nd Sunday in Lent
28st February 2021
Year B – Psalter week 2
This is my Son, the Beloved
The Transfiguration occurs in Mark’s gospel soon after Peter’s profession of faith, a turning point, in which God the Father reveals to St. Peter that Jesus is not simply a prophet, but is actually the Christ, the long-awaited Saviour who would finally deliver Israel from the hands of its enemies. Immediately after this profession of faith, however, Jesus begins to warn his disciples what this actually means, that he ‘was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again.’ The Transfiguration, then, acts as a kind of counter-balance to the prediction of the passion, revealing to certain disciples, an insight into the divine glory that Jesus possessed, thereby strengthening them for the traumatic events of the crucifixion to follow. Further, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, who represent respectively the Law and the Prophets, assured the disciples that, in the person of Jesus, all the promises of the Old Testament would be fulfilled.
I would like to focus more, however, upon our first reading from Genesis, known as “The testing of Abraham” and “The binding of Isaac”. Difficult for us to understand is God’s instruction to Abraham: “Take your son, your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering on a mountain I will point out to you”. We must keep in mind, at this point, that child sacrifice was practiced by some idol-worshiping religions at the time. Instead of disobeying this command of God, however, Abraham obeys and places his trust in God, even though such an action would seemingly negate the promise that God had made that Abraham would be the father of a great multitude of people, something that could only be fulfilled through his only son, Isaac. Abraham obeyed because such was his trust that God would provide, and God did provide by stopping Abraham at the last minute, and providing a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac. Many scholars actually see in this, God’s judgement upon all child and human sacrifices which must cease.
The binding of Isaac is a prefiguration of the crucifixion of Jesus. Isaac is obedient to his father Abraham as Jesus is obedient to his Heavenly Father, even unto death. Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice as Jesus carries the wood of the cross. While a ram is sacrificed in place of Isaac, however, Jesus himself is the lamb who will be sacrificed on behalf of us all so that we may go free.
But how does Abraham prefigure God the Father in this account? Are they both simply indifferent to the suffering of their own sons? Well, such an understanding, argue theologians such as Karl Barth, proves to be false and actually pagan. St. Paul in our second reading from Romans, gives us some insight into our Heavenly Father’s true disposition when he says: “Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give?”
The preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, has a wonderful section on this topic in his book, “Life in Christ – A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans”. He says that this account of the testing of Abraham “helps us to form a more exact idea of the Father’s attitude in the mystery of redemption. He was not absent in heaven while his Son went towards Calvary. On the contrary, he was with him. Jesus said to his disciples: “You will leave me alone; yet I am not alone for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Who can describe Abraham’s sentiments as he accompanied his son towards the place of immolation? Origen says that the moment of greatest temptation for Abraham was when, along the way, his son innocently turned to him and asked him where the victim for the burnt offering was and calling him “my father!” At the words “my father!” Abraham startles as one at fault and answered: “Here am I, my son!” How could he say to his Son: “You are the burnt offering!” This was indeed the voice of temptation for Abraham; all his innermost paternal feelings were shaken at the words, “my father!” Who knows what passed in the heart of the heavenly Father when, at Gethsemane, Jesus turned to him with the same words: “My Father!”: “Abba, Father! All things are possible to thee, remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). Abraham would certainly have preferred to die a thousand times rather than kill his son. The Father and Son are, therefore, together in the Passion. The moment when Jesus feels the Father most distant and cries out: “Why have you abandoned me?” is, in fact, the moment in which the Father is closest to him because at that moment the human will of the Son is most closely united to the divine will.”
“Now we understand what St. Paul means when he says: “God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all; he means that he did not spare him for himself, that is, he did not keep him for himself “as a jealous treasure.” The Father is not only the one who received the Son’s sacrifice but he also makes the sacrifice of his Son; he made the great sacrifice of giving us his Son! St Augustine exclaimed: “How great was your love for us, good Father, for you did not even spare your own Son, but gave him up to save us sinners! How great was your love for us!” 
Fr Cantalamessa goes on to explain how some theologians “have affirmed that the act of “giving his own Son” causes God deeper suffering than any suffering in the created world and that the task of “Jesus Crucified” is exactly that of manifesting the Father’s passion.”
 Raniero Cantalamessa, Life in Christ – A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1990, p. 92.
 Ibid, p. 93.
 Ibid, p. 94.
The sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith
I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living
God did not spare his own Son
This is my Son, the Beloved
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
From the bright cloud the Father’s voice was heard:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!