For the readings for Sunday Mass, the first reading is from the Hebrew Scriptures and is meant to be related to the Gospel reading. For the Second Sunday of Lent, where the Gospel reading is Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, our first reading is from the Book of Genesis. In that reading, God promises Abram (Abraham) that his descendants will be as countless as the stars in the sky. God also says to Abram, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.” Abram replies, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” And God gives Abram a sign and again promises the land to Abram and his descendants.
When I first read this reading and the reading for the Gospel, I didn’t quite see the connection between the two. But then something in the Gospel reading helped me see a possible connection. When Jesus’ appearance is changed on the mountaintop, Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, appear, and speak to Jesus, “of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” If we look at the original Exodus as the time when God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt, the exodus that Jesus accomplished in Jerusalem, His Passion, death, and Resurrection, was the act of God delivering us out of slavery to sin. And so the change in Jesus’ appearance, with the voice from the cloud saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him,” are signs that the promise of redemption will be fulfilled. So the connection I see between the two readings is that God makes a promise, and gives a sign that the promise will come to fulfillment.
As we make our journey through Lent, these readings lead us to reflect on how we are called to put our trust in God’s promises to us. God has shown us love and mercy time and time again! There is no greater sign of God’s love than the Cross of Christ and no greater sign of hope than the tomb He left empty!
Can we give ourselves over to hope and trust in God? It is not a simple question. Luke tells us that Peter, James and John, who witnessed this incredible event fell silent after it was over, “and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.” Maybe they didn’t understand what had happened. Maybe they couldn’t understand it until after Jesus rose from the dead.
We, on the other hand, know about Jesus’ death leading to His resurrection. And yet, we can still have trouble trusting in God. Often when we’re hurting, we conclude that God has forgotten us. But we need to remember the times when God delivered us from whatever trial and tribulation we have experienced in our lives, just as God delivered on His promise to Abram, and delivered Israel out of slavery. Perhaps, then, part of our repentance, our turning back to God, can be turning back to trusting in God, and surrendering to God’s will.
May we have the faith of Abram, and believe in the signs that God gives us of His faithfulness.
Fr. Phil, CP