February 23, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. Often, Genesis is associated with its creation narratives.

Actually, much else is included in Genesis. A major figure in the books is Abraham. Historians and biblical scholars agree that Abraham lived long ago. He was not a myth or the product of imagination.

Historically, Jews have regarded Abraham as the first of their people. In a theological sense, Christians see Abraham as the first of their people also because Christianity flows from the revelation initially given by God to the ancient Hebrews.

This weekend’s reading is familiar. Abraham leads his beloved son, Isaac, to the top of a high mountain, there to kill him as a sacrifice to God. As is well known, God intervenes and orders that Isaac be spared.

The story has several lessons. One usually overlooked is the repudiation of human sacrifice by none other than God. Beyond this detail, this reference shows that paganism in any form is a human invention.

God illumined and rescued the people by drawing them away from paganism and leading them to the truth. Abraham was God’s instrument. Abraham’s faith made him worthy of being God’s instrument.

For Christians, Isaac symbolizes Jesus because Jesus was the victim of the ignorance and viciousness of humans, of pagan humans. Jesus lived, however.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading. This reading simply says that if the power of God and the light of God are with us, nothing can prevail against us.

The Gospel of St. Mark provides the last reading. It is the story of the transfiguration.

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the summit of a high mountain. There, in an overwhelming, stupendous, even terrifying appearance, Jesus is transfigured, visible to the Apostles as the Son of God.

Light is everywhere. In the Old Testament, God is associated with light. Indeed, we associate darkness with danger and the unknown. Light is from God, as are security, strength, genuine awareness, and perception.

Mountaintops were the places on Earth nearest to heaven. In a hopeful, awkward attempt to come as close as possible to God, humans went to the tops of mountains. Indeed, the temple in Jerusalem was at the summit of Mount Zion. Jesus was crucified on a hilltop. He ascended from a hilltop.

In this reading, Jesus appears in the reality of divinity. In this divinity is eternal life itself. God never dies. God never changes. Nothing daunts God. Nothing threatens God. These notions about God were in the hearts and minds of Jews contemporary with Jesus as they are for us in modern times and in modern theology.

The presence of Moses and Elijah is important. Their places on either side of the Lord indicate that Jesus stands in the historic train of God’s communication with and salvation of his people, a process in salvation history in which Moses and Elijah were vitally important.


The novelty of Lent has ended. The Church now leads us in earnest into this period to prepare for Holy Week and Easter.

Its message is simple. God is everything. We humans are utterly limited, and we can never overcome our limitations, we can never escape our human limitations, but God provides for us just as he long ago provided for Abraham, whose faith was unflinching. By the same token, faith is indispensable in our search for and path to God.

God is completely revealed in Jesus. Jesus is Lord. This is the great message of the transfiguration given to us this weekend in Mark’s Gospel. It was Paul’s declaration to the Christian Romans.

It is simple. If we have Jesus, we have God. We lack nothing. Thus, the Church calls us in Lent to meet Jesus. †

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