…There in their presence he was transfigured…

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

First Reading: Genesis 22:1-2.9-13.15-18

Psalm: 115:10.15-19

Second Reading: Romans 8:31-34

Gospel: Mark 9:2-10

The Gospel reading of the Second Sunday of Lent is about Jesus’ transfiguration.

“Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white […]. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus” (Mk9:2-4).

Why did not Jesus show his glory to all the Jews, or, rather to all mankind? Why did He choose just three of his disciples and lead them apart, where nobody could see?

If He had been transfigured in front of all Israel, people would certainly have fallen at his feet and they would have believed in him. He would have gained obedience. Obedience out of fear, but not out of love. Not out of our free choice of him as our God and king. Even those three disciples, who were supposed to be the most used to see his wonders, “were so frightened” (v.6) at the sight of his glory.

As said in last Sunday’s reflection, Jesus does not like easy options, easy ways to be recognised as God. He rather wishes a response of sincere love to his own Love, which is an immeasurable and unconditional love.

In the first reading, from the book of Genesis, we see Abraham who is asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac.

There were no child-sacrifices among the Israelites:  human sacrifices were forbidden. Instead, this was a practice of other nations, like the Canaanites. In Israel, the firstborn child was offered to God, but not to be sacrificed. It was to be “bought back”, “redeemed”. And this was also to remember how the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared during the final plague of Egypt, when all the firstborn of the Egyptians died.

And Isaac as well, Abraham’s beloved son, has his life spared. It is very interesting to compare this episode with what God did for us in Jesus Christ: not men’s firstborn sons to be offered to God anymore, but God’s only begotten Son to be offered to all humankind, once and forever.

And his life was not spared. He really died. And He himself offered this sacrifice to the Father for our sake. And then the Father gave him back his life, redeemed him and us all in him. He is God and lives forever.

As we read in today’s second reading: “With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give” (Rm 8:31-32)

The Father looks now at the whole human race through the open wounds of his Son. How can we ever doubt his love? Or be afraid of him? His only Son has taken on our flesh: now, every man on the face of the earth reminds the Father of his dearly beloved Son.

And it is true what Jesus says: “You have loved them as you have loved me” (Jn 17:23)

And what about that awesome experience on the mountain? Do you remember in which other passage Jesus takes these three disciples apart? In the Gethsemane. He asks Peter, James and John to go to pray with him (Mt 26:36-38; Mk 14:32-35). No light is shining there. Human sadness and anguish are fighting in Jesus’ heart against his firm resolution to do his Father’s will. But in this very moment Jesus’ glory shines as well: in his final obedience to the Father. Saint John often uses the term “glorify” and “hour” to refer to Jesus’ Passion:

«Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?’. No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! ». Then a voice came from heaven, «I have glorified it, and will glorify it again».” (Jn 12:27-28). In this passage, Jesus has already entered Jerusalem, where his Passion will take place. The voice of the Father is heard again, as in the baptism and in the transfiguration.

Let us then follow our King of glory even when his glory seems to be concealed from our eyes: in our own hour of sadness, suffering and loneliness. Let us keep firm in our faith. Our Lord’s glory will shine on us, suffering will be unexpectedly changed into joy, and death into life and resurrection!

…“and he remained there for forty days, and was put to the test by Satan”

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – YEAR B

 

First reading: Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm: 24(25):4-6,7b
Second reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Gospel: Mk 1:12-15

 

Today’s Gospel tell us about Jesus’ forty days in the desert and the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.

St Mark’s description of Jesus’ temptations in the desert is very brief. The other Synoptics, Matthew and Luke, give more details about how the devil put Jesus to the test with three kinds of temptation.

This text is the continuation of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan (Mk 1:9-11), in which the Holy Spirit descends on him and the voice of the Father is heard: “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you” (Mk 1:11).

It is very interesting to notice how that same phrase “You are my Son” (uttered by the Father) is now used by Satan, for his devious intent:

 

“If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3) … do this, do that, show you power! And what if… nothing happens? Where is your God? Are you sure you are his Beloved Son, or is He cheating you?

This reminds us the book of Genesis, when Satan makes Adam and Eve doubt God’s love. The devil wants to strike Jesus in the greatest certainty of his life: God is my Father and He loves me.

 

And so, in the first temptation the devil takes advantage of the basic needs: “If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.” (Mt 4:3)

It sounds like: you are hungry, you need your food, it is your right to have it. Use your power! There is nothing wrong in doing it. Prove to yourself that you are the Son of God!

But Jesus answers: “Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).

 

Then, the second temptation is about success, to choose an easy way to be a Messiah: Satan brings Jesus on the top of the temple and says: «If you are Son of God», he said, «throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone. »(Mt 4:6).

…Everybody would see and acknowledge that you are the Son of God! Is this not the reason why you were sent? To draw all people to the faith? Show your glory, perform this miracle, and everybody will believe in you. Throw yourself from here, if you believe in what the Scripture says: the angels will surely carry you!…

Interesting how the devil knows the Holy Scripture and manipulates it in order to say what he wants. But Jesus answers: “Scripture also says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt 4:7)

This temptation will appear again, in Jesus’ hardest hour. While He is hanging on the cross, in tremendous pain, the onlookers will say:

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. If he is the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He has put his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, «I am God’s son. » (Mt 27: 42-43).

He undoubtedly could have come down from the cross. He could have saved himself. Instead, He chose to embrace suffering till his very last, to offer himself for our salvation. His glory will be revealed later, not now: by his resurrection.

 

And finally, the third temptation is about power:

“Taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to him, «I will give you all these» (Mt 4:8-9).

He could have ruled on the entire world, and He would certainly have been a just and wise king. He would have improved the human condition. But there is a “if”: “if you fall at my feet and do me homage.” (v.9)

All the power of the world, but accepting this compromise with evil: Jesus then would have served Satan, and not the Father.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ chose another way to show his divinity to us: the way of humility, poverty and obedience to the Father; not accepting compromises with the devil, and letting us free to make our own choice of him as Lord and King of our life.

He is not that kind of king that imposes his power or accepts compromises in order to rule, but He is a king who fights for us in the battlefield, till the point of accepting death for our salvation.

Let us then follow our Lord throughout this Lent, let us accompany him on his journey to his Holy Passion, so that we could love and serve him more.