|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
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?