Tag Archives: 2 Sunday in Lent

17 March 2019: Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Gn 15:5-12, 17-18
RCL: Gn 15:1-12, 17-18
  Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14   Phil 3:17–4:1   Lk 9:28b-36
RCL: Lk 9:28b-36 or Lk 13:31-35

Becoming reconfigured

Purple_banner_sm During Lent the believing community follows Jesus as he is tested, transfigured, tells parables, forgives, and arrives in Jerusalem. This week’s readings ask us how and where we encounter God, and how such encounters change us.

In the first reading from Genesis, Abram argues with God about God’s promises. Although God judges Abram righteous because of Abram’s faith, God also sees Abram needs more than a promise. God offers Abram a covenant or a binding contract between two parties, expressed as a ritual common in the ancient world. Abram, in a “trance” or altered state, encounters God “in person” (in the form of a “smoking furnace” and “flaming torch”). The Lectionary editors chose this reading because the disciples also experience a divine encounter while in an altered state of reality.

In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the ekklesia in Philippi, Paul describes how the resurrected Christ “will transform our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Christ, as firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20), makes possible his disciples’ own resurrections and bodily transformations. The idea of transformation/transfiguration links the second reading to the gospel.

Luke’s gospel describes how Jesus is transfigured before Peter, John, and James. Luke uses dense references to Hebrew scripture to describe the disciples’ mystical and transformative experience.

  • Prayer. Luke understands the transfiguration as a prayer experience. In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus prays, something important happens, such as the theophany after his baptism (Lk 3:21), his choosing disciples (Lk 6:12), and Peter’s profession of faith (Lk 9:18). Just as Jesus’ prayer initiates his transfiguration, so our prayers transform us: a change of heart/mind (metanoia), a divine encounter, or seeing another person in a new way.
  • Sleeping/awaking. In the ancient world, people frequently experienced alternate reality in visions and trances. In the first reading, Abram meets God in “a trance.” Prophets like Isaiah (Is 6:1-13), Jeremiah (Jer 1:11-19), and Ezekiel (Ez 1:4-28) describe their experiences of God in visions or ecstatic states. In Hebrew scripture, sleep is often the medium for heavenly encounters or visions (Gn 15:12, Dn 8:18). Modern societies lose their appreciation for the mystical when they expect scientific proof from dreams and visions.
  • Change in perception. Peter, James, and John could not fully understand what Jesus’ transfiguration meant until after they experienced his resurrection. Jesus’ transfiguration was not permanent; it foreshadowed his resurrected self. Once resurrected, Jesus is able to transform us, as Paul says, “to conform with” him. Baptism foreshadows what we might be at the parousia; as we allow Jesus to reconfigure us, we change how we understand ourselves, others, and God.

The Lenten Lectionary readings call us to walk with Jesus as he prepares for his transformative death. Today’s readings invite us to encounter God “in person.” We most often find God in private or public prayer. We also meet God in the presence of others, in the physical body of the believing community, in hearing the scriptural word, and in the ritual of sacraments. Like Abram and the disciples in today’s readings, we may also touch God in a “mountaintop experience:” an intense personal, spiritual, or emotional encounter. Each encounter can provide us with a new insight into God, others, and ourselves. How are we actively seeking God’s presence? Are we transfigured by prayer? Are we able to see the divine in the everyday?

—Terence Sherlock


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25 February 2018: Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18   Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19   Rom 8:31b-34   Mk 9:2-10

Fathers and sons, sacrifice and service

Purple_banner_sm During Lent the believing community follows Jesus as he is tested and transfigured, and as he foretells his coming glory. For RCIA participants, Lent is a time of rites and prayers that prepare them for the sacraments they will experience at the Easter Vigil. Today’s readings, centering on the Transfiguration, ask us to consider discipleship’s service and sacrifice.

In the first reading from Genesis, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son. The literal reading emphasizes Abraham’s faithfulness to God’s word. Christian hearers recognize Isaac as a type of Christ (a son who is to be sacrificed). The Lectionary editors chose this story to match today’s second reading.

In the second reading, Paul reminds the Roman ekklesia that God’s love is an all-conquering power that overcomes every obstacle to a Christian’s salvation. God manifested that power fully when “God did not spare his own son, but handed him over for us all.” Paul presents Abraham and Isaac as a type or model for God and Jesus. Both fathers are willing to sacrifice their sons. Abraham offers a mortal son. God hands over God’s immortal son. God stops Isaac’s death, and through Isaac a new people of God (the Jews) arises. God allows Jesus’ transformative death, and through Jesus a new believing community (the ekklesia) arises.

Mark’s gospel recounts Jesus revealing his divine glory to Peter, James, and John. Jesus’ transfiguration confronts his disciples and Mark’s readers with the mystery of God’s kingdom and the place of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection within it. God the Father speaks only a few words in Christian scripture; when the Father speaks in today’s reading, we should listen:

  • My beloved son. The voice from the cloud identifies Jesus as God’s son. God first announces Jesus’ sonship at his baptism, the start of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mk 1:11). Today God reiterates Jesus’ sonship at the Transfiguration, the start of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Mk 9:7). At Jesus’ death on the cross, a Roman centurion witnesses again to Jesus’ sonship (Mk 15:39).
  • Listen to him. The Greek verb ἀκούω (ah-KOO-oh) means “to heed” or “to hear and understand.” God’s message to the disciples recalls Moses’ promise that God will raise up another prophet, and they must listen to him (Dt 18:15). Today God tells Peter, James, and John that Jesus is more than a prophet. The Son of God is the Word of God; Jesus’ teachings are God’s own teachings. Jesus teaches what kind of messiah he is (Mk 8:31) and how disciples should act (Mk 8:34).

This week RCIA candidates and the believing community hear about fathers and sons, and sacrifice and service. Abraham struggles with fatherhood and faithfulness. Paul envisions a Father who is so for us that he gives his Son to save us. The Father tells us to listen and understand the Son, whose words and actions teach discipleship. Are we like Peter, not knowing what to say at the thought of suffering? Are we like James and John, terrified of taking up our own crosses? Can we hear that the Father sent the Son to destroy every obstacle that we might ever face? Are we even listening?

—Terence Sherlock

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12 March 2017: Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Gn 12:1-4a Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22 2 Tm 1:8b-10 Mt 17:1-9

Transfiguration: invited to be part of the story

Purple_banner_sm On the second Sunday in Lent–Transfiguration Sunday–the Lectionary readings invite RCIA participants and all the believing community to consider how God calls us and how such invitations can change us.

In the first reading, God calls Abram. God’s invitation marks the beginning of salvation history: God calls Abram and his descendants as the chosen people. Abram’s response allows God to enter into and to act in human history and allows Jesus, a descendant of Abram, to save all nations.

In the second reading from the second letter to Timothy, the author describes a Christian’s vocation–a “call to a holy calling.” God invites us to share in the grace and benefits of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection as God’s free gift to us; we have done nothing to deserve God’s invitation.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus appears transfigured. As a theological vision full of symbols, the transfiguration reveals Jesus as fulfillment of Hebrew scripture prophecies and hopes, divine Son, prophet, and messiah. The transfiguration includes the following actors:

  • Peter, James, and John. Jesus invites these three disciples, his inner circle, to witness his transfiguration. They are present for both this vision of Jesus’ revealed glory, and for  Jesus’ agony in the garden (Mt 26: 36-46). Some scholars see the transfiguration and Gethsemane as mirror stories, showing Jesus’ seeming conflicting divine glory and human struggle. Peter, James, and John represent us at both awe-full and bewildering occasions.
  • Moses and Elijah. Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) stand for the Hebrew scripture as the revealed word of God. Having Moses and Elijah present calls attention to their similarities with Jesus: Moses and Elijah worked miracles; fasted for forty days, were rejected by some of the chosen people; and encountered God on mountains. In Jewish tradition, Moses and Elijah have eschatological (end-time) roles: another prophet like Moses will appear (Dt 18:15-19); Elijah will return to announce the messiah (Mal 3: 23-25).
  • God the Father. The cloud that overshadows everyone announces God’s presence, as it did at Sinai (Ex 24:15) and the Jerusalem temple (1 Kgs 8:10-11). God repeats the words from Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17). God’s command–“Listen to him”–recalls God’s promise to raise up a prophet like Moses; the people should hear and follow him (Dt 18:15). Jesus is both God’s son and promised messiah. The words, like the vision, are for the disciples’ benefit, to strengthen them for Jesus’ coming passion and death.

As we progress through Lent, the Sunday readings proclaim the sweep of salvation history. In every time and generation, God invites humans to be part of something greater than themselves. Abram’s call set in motion God’s saving plan accomplished in Jesus. Today’s letter tells us that God calls each one to be part of God’s continuing saving story promised at the transfiguration. As disciples who have witnessed the resurrection, we understand the transfiguration as a vision of our own future glory promised by Jesus’ own resurrection. What is our role in God’s story? Where does God fit in our own story?

—Terence Sherlock

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21 February 2016: Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Gn 15:5-12, 17-18  Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14  Phil 3:17-4:1  Lk 9:28b-36


Transfiguration: God meets us; we are changed

On the second Sunday in Lent–Transfiguration Sunday–the Lectionary readings invite RCIA participants and all the believing community to consider how God meets us and how such meetings can change us.

The first reading, from Genesis, describes God and Abram’s meeting and covenant. Throughout the previous three books, God and Abram have been building a relationship. Finally “Abram puts his faith in the Lord” and he and God make a covenant together. God appears to Abram in smoke and fire to “pass between the pieces” of the sacrificed animals–that is, to “sign on the dotted line.” After this meeting Abram becomes Abraham, the father of nations, and his descendants inherit the promised land.

The second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, discusses citizenship and transformation. Philippi was a Roman colony (kolōnia, a settlement for retired Roman troops), and many Philippians were Roman citizens. Paul reminds the Philippian believing community that their real community and membership is with Christ, not with the Romans. It’s the Lord–not the Romans–who will “transform our lowly body,” into his glorious one. Paul uses the word μετασχηματίζω (meta-skay-mah-TIHd-zo), meaning “to transfigure, transform, or change;” this word connects the second reading to the gospel.

The gospel, Luke’s account of Jesus transfiguration, tells how Peter, James, and John understood a transformed Jesus and encountered God:

  • Overcome by sleep/now fully awake: In the first reading, Abram encounters God while “in a trance.” Luke describes the disciples first as “weighted down (with sleep)” and then suddenly “awakened thoroughly.” In the ancient world, visions and trances were common. Prophets like Isaiah (6:1-13), Jeremiah (1:11-19), and Ezekiel (1:4-28) write about meeting God in dreams, visions, ecstasy, trances, or other altered reality. Luke’s hearers understand the sleep/wake language as a prelude to an encounter with God.
  • Moses and Elijah: Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets, are two important Hebrew scripture heroes who met God face-to-face. Both Moses and Elijah encountered God on a mountain (Horeb/Sinai). Luke places Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain surrounded by scripture heroes who have seen God.
  • The cloud and the voice: The phrase “cast a shadow” can also be translated “to envelop in a brilliant haze” or “to invest with supernatural influence.” In Hebrew scripture clouds, fire, and smoke often signal an encounter with God. God’s message–“This is my chosen son; listen to him”–is nearly identical to the words heard at Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3:22). God’s voice identifies Jesus as God’s son and chosen one (suffering servant), foreshadowing Jesus’ coming glory and his coming suffering.

The authors of today’s readings struggle with human words and ideas that describe and explain encounters with God. Such experiences change us and change the way we see the world. As with Abram, God meets us where we are. As our relationship with God grows and we journey in faith, we, like Paul, recognize where we belong, where we are citizens. As we encounter God daily–in others, in prayer, in sacraments–we are transformed. Are we open to meet God? Are we ready to be transfigured?

—Terence Sherlock

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