Saturday, February 24, 2024

2nd Sunday of Lent Year B (Gospel: Mark 9:2-10) God speaks in the cloud



I have often heard people say that the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son is so horrific that maybe it shouldn’t be read at all. It is meant to be horrific. The point is that God asks the unthinkable of Abraham, but more importantly Abraham trusts God even though it makes no sense to him. Child sacrifice was common at that time. Not only was it horrific that he should be asked to sacrifice his child, but it was also through this only child that God had promised him many offspring. So, nothing at all made sense. Not only that, but it was a three-day journey to where he was to make the sacrifice, so he had three days to think it over. It wasn’t a spontaneous response. Abraham suddenly finds himself in a situation of complete darkness, where nothing was right, nothing made sense, but Abraham trusts God and then everything changes at the last minute. God put Abraham ‘to the test’ not in the sense of seeing if he was good enough—God knew how much faith Abraham had to begin with—but because He wanted to stretch that faith to its full capacity. It also shows that human sacrifice is not acceptable to God.


An athlete won’t reach his or her full potential unless they are pushed to their limit. A good trainer should see the potential in them that they are probably unaware of themselves and if they are a good trainer, they will push them so that they will reach their full potential. Sometimes God does the same with us. He knows what we are capable of, more than we do ourselves and sometimes He stretches, or pushes us to the limit, because God wants us to reach our full potential as human beings. The more we remain open to God, the more He will draw us to himself, bringing us deeper and deeper in our faith, but that always happens through times of crisis.


Did you ever notice that sometimes when you pray for a situation to get better, it gets worse first? There is a temptation to panic and not pray any more, but if we believe that God is listening to us and helping us—and Jesus tells us that God always hears and always answer us (Matt 7:7-8)—then we persevere in prayer and we try to trust that the Lord will bring the best out of the situation, even though it often doesn’t make sense to us. That requires faith, and it’s not easy, but that is how faith grows.


Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, but in the end he didn’t have to go through with it. Because he was willing to do anything that God asked him and because he showed his remarkable trust in God, the Lord said that He would bless him greatly:

I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore.


2000 years later God sends his Son, who takes on human flesh and allows him to be sacrificed for the human race. The Father allowed his Son to be sacrificed. He did go through with it. It says in the second reading that because Jesus went through with it, the Father would not refuse him anything. That is why we can have such confidence when we pray to Jesus. It says in the second reading that Jesus now intercedes for us before the Father in heaven. If Jesus, the Son of God, is interceding for us before the Father, then what could we be afraid of as long as we remain open to God? Not only that, but we also have Our Lady interceding for us. Is Jesus going to refuse his mother anything? Is the Father going to refuse Jesus anything? And these are the ones who are interceding for us.


In the Gospel the three disciples Peter, James and John are granted this wonderful and terrifying vision of Jesus, the Son of God, in all his glory. Try and picture Jesus with his garments suddenly becoming bright as light and his face like the sun. You can’t even look at the sun, but this is what they saw. Moses and Elijah were also there. How did they know it was them? Because they were given infused knowledge at that moment. They symbolised everything in the Old Testament, as we know it. Moses represented the Law, the Ten Commandments and all the teachings that came with those Commandments and Elijah represented all the prophets and all they taught. It was showing that Jesus was the fulfilment of everything that had been taught/revealed up to that point.


Why were they given this privilege when none of the others were? This happened just before the Passion, when Jesus would be tortured and killed before their eyes. Peter, James and John were also the three who would be with him in the Garden of Gethsemane watching him fall apart with fear. They were going to need great strength not to despair themselves, but what is especially worth noting is that after the vision was over they suddenly found themselves in a cloud where they could not see anything. Only then did they hear the voice of the Father speaking to them: 

This is my Son the Beloved.  Listen to him.’


God spoke to them when they were in a cloud. Have you ever been on a mountain when a cloud suddenly descended? It’s quite frightening because you cannot see anything. You have to stop and wait. Sometimes it is only when we are in a ‘cloud’ or darkness/confusion that God will speak to us most powerfully. When we cannot see the way forward, and we cannot get any clarity on what to do, then God will show us what the next step is, but often He will only show us the next step, not the whole path ahead. This brings us back to the need to trust that God knows what God is doing when He leaves us in the dark. We are often left in the dark, especially with regard to our faith. That just seems to be how it works. Think of when someone dies. We are left with so many questions and so few answers. We don’t understand, but God asks us to trust. God asked Abraham to trust him, because God knew he would be able to, even though He seemed to be asking the impossible. We are only shown one step at a time, if even that.  If He doesn’t show us the path it is because we don’t need to see it, only the next step.


At this time we are also hearing more and more voices pulling us in different directions, even within the Church. It can be distressing and give you the impression that everything is falling apart. It isn’t. It is sad to see disunity, but we don’t need to listen to those arguments, we only need to listen to what Jesus taught. That’s why we keep going back to the Scriptures and the official teachings of Jesus which come to us through our Church.


This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him.’


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