March 4, 2012
Second Sunday of Lent: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10
It is always a great joy to witness the pride and hope on the faces of parents as they bring their children to the Church to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. A number of times parents have even brought their parents to the parish on their way home from the hospital. They are always filled with great hopes and dreams for their children, aspirations that they will be healthy, happy and hopefully prosperous. Since Mary Star of the Sea Parish has schools for children from the age of three to eighteen, I am also able to witness the pride of these parents as their children mature over the years and participate in school activities and sports. I can only imagine the feeling that these same parents must have as they witness their children go away for college, get married and leave home, or for some as they send them off to places of danger as they serve in the Armed Forces or as First Responders.
Abraham waited 100 years for the birth of his son Isaac. God had taken Abraham outside and said to him, "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, will your descendants be." (Gn 15:5). However, Abraham did not have any children with his wife Sarah until in their advanced age they gave birth to Isaac. Understanding this, Abraham's response to God is remarkable, when God asks him to, “take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you" (Gn: 22:1). It would be Isaac himself who would carry the wood up the mountain and ask his father, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” (Gn: 22).
Today's Gospel has Jesus climbing a high mountain with Peter, James and John and being transfigured before them. It is on the mountain that always symbolizes an encounter with God, that Jesus is revealed as His true self, clothed in all His glory with Moses and Elijah, the giver of the law and the greatest prophet, conversing with Him. As the disciples seek to understand and attempt to respond appropriately at this moment, they hear the voice of the Father, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (Mk:7).
In my office I have a beautiful painting of God the Father holding His Son in His arms as He is taken down from the cross. We sometimes forget that the God of Love also loved His only Son and I am sure He was very pleased and proud of Jesus. His Son was God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, and they were consubstantial and through Him all things were made, but Jesus was still His Son. But, as much as He loved His Son He also loved us to the point that He sent Jesus into the world knowing that He would take upon our human weakness. Just as Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham, would carry the wood meant for his sacrifice up the mountain, Jesus will carry the wood of the cross, the instrument of His sacrifice, up the mountain of Golgotha. The only difference is that out of love for us, God will allow His Son to become the eternal sacrifice to restore humanity to Himself.
During these weeks of Lent, as the beloved disciples of our Lord, we are invited to climb the mountain with Christ. The mountain is not a physical mountain, but nonetheless it will be real. We will never encounter our Lord unless we find real time to not only talk to God, but to listen to God. We are invited to spend some time in real prayer. I am always blessed during this second week of Lent that I spend the week at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside on retreat. An annual retreat is required by cannon law for priests and unfortunately not possible for most people in their busy schedule, but we are all encouraged to find a way to escape the routine of our lives to spend time alone with God. It is truly only through our encounter with God that the fullness of our true self is manifested. Again, I invite you to attend daily Mass, pray the rosary, visit our Adoration Chapel, buy a good book in our bookstore, read the Bible or whatever works for you in order to ascend the mountain in prayer.
As we recognize that we are God's beloved, we realize that we also may be called to ascend the mountain with our burdens. The wood of the cross will be sufficient sacrifice for our redemption and the redemption of the world, but we can also share in the redemptive act of Christ through the sacrifices we bare. The little sacrifices that we make during Lent do not compare with the potential acts of love that we can all share with the world.
Finally, God has shown us His generosity to the point of sharing His beloved Son. During this Lenten season we can all discover new and different ways that we can respond through our acts of generosity and love. Let us keep climbing the mountain together.
Father John Provenza