Bible Reflection (25 February 2024)

2nd Sunday of Lent Year B

Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18
Romans 8:31-34
Mark 9:2-10

A call to sacrificial love.

Sacrifice is a great human quality. When we make sacrifice for someone close to us, it is a concrete sign of the love we have for that person. Hence, it is not surprising that sacrifice is a great Christian quality that is exalted in the Bible. On this second week of the Lenten season, the Scripture invites us to contemplate more deeply on this topic. This week, God invites us to love more perfectly, more selflessly, in imitation of His love for us. As we reflect on the Scripture reading this week, let us reflect on these questions: In what areas in my life is God calling me to selflessly love and sacrifice? How have I responded?

In the First Reading, God demanded Abraham sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. This request must have been both shocking and confusing for Abraham. Imagine, after being promised an heir; after waiting for ten long years, a child was finally born to Abraham. Then God asked Abraham to sacrifice this very child! In spite of the enormity of the sacrifice, Abraham did not complain. Abraham responded in obedience and trust, as he went about the preparation work to sacrifice his son (verse 9). But just as Abraham was about to raise the knife to kill the child, the angel of God stopped Abraham, offering a ram caught in a thicket to take the place of the child. Then God promised Abraham, “Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” (verse 16-18) So, on the account of Abraham’s strong faith, God will form Abraham and his offsprings into the nation of Israel, where it was to be a nation of royal priesthood, leading other nations to faith and to God. (1 Pet 2:5) So as we can see, when God invites us to sacrificial love, our sacrificial love is never for our own sake, but for the sake of others.

The truth is, when God invites us to sacrificial love, He is never going to ask us to do something He would not do Himself. In fact, God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and God will never be outdone in love. In the Second Reading this week, St Paul wrote, “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” (verse 32) As St Augustine reflected, God spared Abraham’s son, but for sake of humanity, did not spare His own Son. Whereas God providing a ram to save Issacs, He did not hold back His own Son, but provided Jesus as a Lamb to save all of humankind. Indeed, this is the kind of sacrificial love we are called to emulate. It is the kind where our sacrifice is not for own sake, but for the service of our brothers and sisters.

The Gospel this week tells the story of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels of Matthew (17:1-8), Mark (9:2-8) and Luke (9:28-36); and is always read on the second week of Lent. Through the Transfiguration, the evangelists underpin the enormity of God sacrificing His only Begotten Son. The Transfiguration occurred at a time when Jesus was about to face his gruesome death. My brothers and sisters, do not be mistaken for a moment that just because Jesus is God, going to the cross is easy for Him. Indeed, like the rest of us when we face trials, knowing what is ahead of Him distressed Jesus greatly. For proof of that, we need not look any further than the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of His Passion, where Jesus was so distressed that He sweated blood (Lk 22:44). It is a condition we now know as hematidrosis. It is in this context that at the Transfiguration, God sent Moses and Elijah to strengthen Jesus. Like Abraham in the First Reading, the Transfiguration was God the Father making preparation to sacrifice His Son. But unlike Abraham, God actually went through with that sacrifice, for the sake of love.

In the midst of the great mystery of the Transfiguration, we were told that Peter in his ignorance (Lk 9:33, Mk 9:6) proposed to build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah respectively: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (verse 5) Peter was ignorant at two levels. Firstly, Moses and Elijah are no longer creatures of this earth, hence they do not dwell in tents built by human hands. Secondly, Jesus has declared Himself as God on many occasions. To build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah would be putting Jesus on par with the earthly prophets Moses and Elijah. My brothers and sisters, how about us? Like Peter, are we ignorant too? Have we not recognised the grace of God as He calls us to sacrificial love? Are we observing Lent as merely ritualistic practices, and not recognising it as God’s invitation to us to grow spiritually?

My dear friends, let us conclude this week’s reflection by contemplating on this question: For the sake of others and for the sake of love, what is God calling me to sacrifice today? Let us ponder on this as we journey through Lent.

Peace be with you.