Second Sunday of Lent
Go up to the Mountain
In this second Sunday of Lent in particular and in the Lenten season in General, the Church invites us to ponder deeply on the significance of the paschal mystery, that is, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are invited to go up to the mountain to manifest our faith and union with God. The first reading of today tells us of the test to which Abraham was put when ordered by God to offer his son, Isaac, in sacrifice on the mountain. This foreshadows the sacrifice of the Only Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is one of the most moving accounts in the Scriptures. Part of it has been left out in today’s reading to avoid it becoming too long. The full story as portrayed by Gen. 22, 1-19 will help us get light and strength in our moments of trial.
Abraham’s faith flickered and almost failed when he thought God was asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But Abraham trusted God. And God didn’t let him down. God blessed him beyond his wildest dreams. In a similar way, God tests our faith. But if we trust God, as Abraham did, God will not let us down. In the end, God will bless us, too, beyond our wildest dreams. The Apostle James puts it this way: “Happy is the person who  remains faithful under trials, because when he succeeds in passing such a test, he will receive as his reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Lent is also the passage by mount Tabor, that of Transfiguration. The life of Jesus that shall end in the Cross is connected with this heavenly visit he receives on this mountain. God reassures him of his mission of salvation. Jesus is given some encouragement by the Father to go on as He shall be with him. The event on this mountain reveals to us what will arrive at Jesus. As Moses and Elijah were led by God to the Holy Mountain, to witness his glory (Ex 33:18; 1K 19:9), so the apostles are led apart by Jesus; they too climb the mountain and there Jesus manifests his glory to them. In the transfiguration, the Holy Apostles were introduced into a new range of ideas, into a new sphere of contemplation and into the glimpse of a new heaven.
The transfiguration is one of the most important manifestations of God in the New Testament. Some scholars call it the “summary of all revelation”. In effect, Moses and Elijah, the spokesmen of the Law and the Prophets (in a word, all of the Old Testament) present the Christ of the Gospel to the apostles Peter, James and John, those who will be responsible for the preaching of the Gospel.
More than mere vision, today’s gospel reading is an excellent example of the ingredients that would normally constitute prayer – be it of intercession or praise or thanksgiving. It tells us that prayer is a response to Christ’s invitation to come up the mountain, that is, to leave behind for a while our ordinary, everyday concerns and place ourselves quietly in the presence of God. It is an invitation to be alone with Christ. The climax of the story is the command from the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him”. Prayer consists above all in listening, in hearing the word of Jesus.
Like Abraham, Elijah, Moses and the apostles, we are invited in this season the go up to the mountain of encounter with God. Particularly nowadays when so many of us live in a noisy environment with our senses constantly under assault and our minds distracted. In such a world we can easily become spiritually deaf to God’s voice – and indeed spiritually dumb: unable to utter a prayer either for ourselves or for anyone else. We should not only remain on the mountain like Peter “building three tents” but we are invited to preach the message of the Cross and resurrection and invite more people to GO UP TO THE MOUNTAIN
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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