"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT(B) February 25, 2018
Gen. 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Rom. 8: 31b-34; Mark 9: 2-10
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Today’s first reading about God putting Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac, is a very difficult one to hear – not just for parents. Does it confirm what some people fear about God; that God is a harsh and aloof deity testing us throughout our lives? Is that the way God is? And who wants a God like that anyway?
Jews call the story the "binding of Isaac." For the Jewish community, the story is a metaphor for all their suffering and persecution throughout the centuries. They have placed their hopes in God’s hands, despite the seeming absence of God during their times of trial.
Christians have received the Abraham and Isaac story as a reflection of Jesus’ obedience to God’s will – even to his death. Paul, in our second reading, reflects on the death of Jesus as a sign of God’s generosity, "God who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all…."
The Transfiguration story underlines that Jesus is God’s "beloved Son." Through the apparition on the mountain the disciples are encouraged to see Jesus as more than a miracle worker and prophet. Instead, in Jesus, God is present and powerfully at work for our well-being and salvation.
As they returned down from the mountain Jesus asks the disciples not to tell what they had seen and heard to anyone, "except when the Son of Man has risen from the dead." At this point in the narrative, the shadow of the cross begins to loom over Mark’s gospel. Just prior to the Transfiguration Jesus gives his first teaching about his upcoming suffering and death. He then tells those who would follow him, that if they wish to be his disciples, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him (8:31-38).
The whole biblical story, from its very beginning, is about God’s forgiveness for human sin. We believe that Jesus died because of our sins and for our salvation. Do we have to believe that God was fulfilling what Abraham didn’t have to do – sacrificing God’s only Son for our sake?
Jesus died on the cross because he was obedient to God’s will. God wanted Jesus to proclaim a new reign of compassion and reconciliation with God and with one another – a reign of peace for all – for the least, and for sinners and outcasts as well. Jesus fulfilled God’s will and stayed faithful to his preaching and healing mission. He was steadfast in the mission God gave him, even though he stirred the wrath of the earthly and religious powers. Eventually these resisting forces killed him.
How powerful is sin in our world? Powerful enough to resist God’s loving outreach to us through Jesus. Jesus is the innocent and perfect model of what it means to be a child of God, made in the image and likeness of God. He was tragically misunderstood, suspected and resisted because of human jealousy, hatred and suspicion – because of our sin.
In today’s gospel Jesus hints what God’s response to human obstinacy and sin will be. God will raise Jesus from the dead, proving that God’s love for us can overcome all obstacles and resistance. God’s love will shine forth in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The voice on the mountain reveals that Jesus is God’s beloved child, still God did not stop the powers from killing him and attempting to silence his message. But those powers could not prevent God from raising Christ and offering his new life to all who profess faith in him. Human sin caused the death of Jesus, but in Christ we have an offer of full reconciliation.
How do we know this? Because Christ went to his death constantly reaching out to those who felt cut off from God. Jesus’ atoning death was not sought by the Father or Jesus, but was a consequence of Jesus’ fidelity to his message of the reign of God and of God’s love for us. When God raised Jesus from the dead it was a divine "stamp of approval" on his life and message.
In a violent world Jesus refused to gather an army around him to overthrow the powers that so oppressed his people. Instead, he chose the way of nonviolence forgiveness and peace. That’s always a threat to the dominant powers and so to deal with Jesus they decided to eliminate him. But God’s way in Jesus prevailed.
What offering shall we make to God in thanksgiving? Certainly at this Eucharist we offer our lives with the bread and the wine, as a offering of ourselves to God and God’s purposes. We pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon our gifts to transform them into the body and blood of Christ. We also pray that Spirit will come upon us to transform us, as well, into Christ’s presence in the world. We ask the Spirit to enable us to do what Jesus asks: that we take up our cross and follow him as agents of his peace and reconciliation. We can also offer our children to God by teaching and modeling for them ways of faith, hope and love.
It is Lent and we are praying for our spiritual transfiguration in God’s love. May we grow in our acceptance of Jesus’ message about the presence of God’s reign in our lives. In obedience to God may our lives reflect more deeply that of Jesus, who consistently showed, through his words and actions and finally through his death, God’s love for all.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh; hence people now say, "on the mountain the Lord will see." --Genesis 22: 14
Have you ever had a mountaintop experience with God? To those of you that have, how are you keeping that experience alive after coming down from the" mountain?" For those of you that have not hungered yet for that experience, what keeps you from deepening your relationship with God? For those of you who want a deeper relationship but do not know how to begin, realize that God’s mountaintop is found in the depths of your heart and being.
Lent is a time of prayer. It is the perfect time to move past rote prayer and have an intentional interior journey with God. One of my daily companions, when I first intensified my journey many years ago, is a book of Inner Voice spoken to a French laywoman and mystic named Gabrielle Bossis (1874-1950). The book is called, He and I. The translator of this little book, Evelyn M. Brown, writes in the preface, "It is the triumph of our century that man has set foot on the moon. But the journey toward its light is only a symbol of the one he must take toward the Light of Christ within him. And only the astronauts of the spiritual world who incarnate Jesus the Wayshower, can lead us there. They are the avant-gardists who venture forth audaciously on the promises of God into another dimension and they alone can guide us to that Sea of Tranquility before the throne of God within us: to the New Jerusalem whose replica is in the human heart." Gabrielle Bossis is one of these astronauts.
My copy of this book was passed to me (book providence!) and pasted in the back were these words from Fr. Ken Parker that really sets the attitude for the reader: "It has been said that 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' What attention, humility, and a childlike openness you bring to this book will be rewarded one hundred times over. Those looking for information in this book will be disappointed. . .those looking for Life, for Love, for God will be filled to overflowing. Read it slowly and prayerfully and you will have a life-long treasure!" These words certainly proved to be true for me.
I would also like to promote our parish centering prayer group that meets on Tuesdays at 5:45PM in the St. Dominic building on the Sacred Heart campus downtown.
God is waiting, you will see.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
It is Lent and we are praying for our own spiritual transfiguration in God’s love. In obedience to God may our lives reflect more deeply that of Jesus, who consistently showed, through his words and actions and finally through his death, God’s love for all.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death
penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736