Abram is obedient to God’s call
Last week, we listened to the story of the Fall. This week, we listen to the call of Abram (later changed to Abraham to signify his new relationship with God). Our reading introduces us to the epic journey of one man who, despite great odds, his age, and uncertainty, trusted that God would make him a great nation in which communities of the earth would find blessing. The reading consists of a call, a promise, a mission, a blessing, and Abram’s faith response. “Abram went as God directed him.” His obedience to God’s call is a model for all believers.
Last week, we heard about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace which led to humankind’s alienation from God. The call of Abram is the very first step in what is often called our Salvation History. It begins with the call of a childless couple, Abram and Sara—later to be called Abraham and Sarah to signify their new relationship with God.
At 75 years of age, Abram could have said, “Sorry, Lord, but I’m too old to move again. In fact, we just bought a home in Florida(!)” But instead, Abram goes as the Lord directs him. Abram doesn’t even know where he’s going or what he’s signing up for. He is simply told to go “to a land that I will show you” (the Promised Land). His obedience and trust in God earns him the title “our father in the faith.” Abraham will become the model of a willing spirit open to God’s direction. He is destined to become the father of Israel, the father of a nation that will, in turn, be a light to the nations of the world. We should also keep in mind that if Abraham is our “father in the faith,” Sarah is our “mother in the faith” because she also obeys God and is open to bearing a child though she is beyond childbearing age.
For Abraham and Sarah, responding to God’s call is more important than the security of place and family. When called to leave their place of security and venture out to an unknown destination, they respond with obedience. They will forever be our role models when it comes to all the leave-takings that life asks of us.
Abraham and Sarah are also great examples of living life to the end. Yogi Berra’s often-quoted saying: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over” applies not only to sports but also to life itself. We are called to live life as fully as we can till the end. When the end comes, we are then called to let go gracefully to God.
“The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” — Gen 12:1 (NAB)
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
This psalm emphasizes that God’s Word is trustworthy and that God protects us in our time of need. This is at the heart of what Abraham and every believer discover about God when we “place our trust in him.”
A hymn in which the just are invited (Ps 33:1–3) to praise God, who by a mere word (Ps 33:4–5) created the three-tiered universe of the heavens, the cosmic waters, and the earth (Ps 33:6–9). Human words, in contrast, effect nothing (Ps 33:10–11). The greatness of human beings consists in God’s choosing them as a special people and their faithful response (Ps 33:12–22). (Source: NAB notes).
“Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” — Ps 33:22 (NAB)
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
God gives us grace to live a holy life
After exhorting Timothy to be willing to suffer for the Gospel, Paul reminds him of the holiness of life he has been called to and how Christ grants us the grace to live a holy life. We are able to live in holiness because of the “grace bestowed on us,” not because of “our works.”
“He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” — 2 Tim 1: 9 (NAB)
Last week, we encountered Jesus out in the desert doing battle with Satan. This week we encounter him on Mount Tabor having a heavenly experience. Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John, the same three disciples he will take with him to Gethsemane. Matthew says Jesus is transfigured before them. His face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as light.
Then Moses and Elijah arrive on the scene and begin to converse with Jesus. Moses represents the Law given on Mt. Sinai, and Elijah represents the Prophets. Peter is enjoying his mountaintop retreat experience so much that he wants to camp out and remain there. None of us would want such a glorious experience to end. Scholars tell us that the experience for Jesus and for Peter, James and John was a taste or foreshadowing of Jesus’ Resurrection.
But the whole experience becomes even more dramatic when a heavenly voice begins to speak, a voice like the one that spoke at Jesus’s baptism. Speaking of Jesus, the voice says: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The voice is telling Peter, James and John that Jesus is God, that he is the Messiah, that he is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and so they need to listen to his words. Overcome with the holiness or otherness of the heavenly voice, the disciples prostrate themselves on the ground.
On their way down from the mountain, Jesus tells the disciples to be tight-lipped about what they have experienced. Why does Jesus do this? Because he does not want them to talk about what they themselves do not yet understand and will not understand until after Jesus has risen from the dead. Then the disciples can tell the whole world about their heavenly experience.
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” — Mt 17:1-3 (NAB)
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?
2. God called Abraham and Sarah in their old age. If older or middle aged, do you feel God is still calling you to do his work? If so, in what ways? If younger, how do you experience God’s call at this time in your life?
3. The religious experience that Peter, James and John had on Mount Tabor was unforgettable. Did you ever have a religious experience that has had a lasting impact on you? If so, what was that experience like?
4. In the Gospel, the voice from on high tells us to “listen to Jesus.” How does Jesus speak to you? Do you have a recent example of how Jesus may have spoken to you?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
Call to Action
Try to be a good listener this week to God and to others.
Jesus, your mountain top experience sustained you through the dark times. May our moments of closeness with you also sustain us during tough times.
Holy God, Baptism has made us your beloved daughters and sons. Free us to answer your call wherever it leads. Help us to put our trust in you on the peaks and in the valleys of life. Amen.
Belovedness leads to authentic encounters of belonging
The more we listen to Jesus and pattern our lives after his commitment, the more we transform into people of love and hope. We can be confident that we do belong with God, so we do not need to work so hard to try and fit in. Freeing ourselves from that effort frees us to have authentic encounters of belonging and an opportunity to respond to this love…May we seek to live our belovedness, relax with knowing we cannot control it, and seek to deepen a genuine relationship of response with the God that loved us into existence.
EXCERPT — As we begin the second week of Lent, we encounter Abram moving to a new place, the disciples struggling to understand Jesus, and the early Christians trying to figure out how to live the Gospel. If our own understanding about who Jesus is remains a struggle with ongoing questions, let us not be discouraged. If our hearts are open, we can trust that there will be people and experiences to help us along the way.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
EXCERPT – All too often we conclude that we cannot change. As we get older, we begin to suppose that we are the way we are and nothing can be different. Especially if we have tried to change ourselves in the past and were unsuccessful, we can easily draw the conclusion that we will never be able to be the person that God wants us to be. When we start thinking in this way, it’s important for us to remember the words that Jesus tells the disciples in today’s gospel. “Rise. Do not be afraid”… Jesus was changed on the mount of transfiguration. We can change by the power of God. Even though we have failed to change in the past, today is a new possibility. Because today Jesus reaches out to transfigure us.
BUILDING ON THE WORD – Fr. George Sigma
EXCERPT — In the account of the Transfiguration Jesus is presented as the new Moses who encounters God “on a high mountain” (Mt 17:1) in the “bright cloud” (Mt 17: 5), with His face shining (Mt 17: 2. Moses also encounters God in the cloud on Mount Sinai (Ex 24: 15-18) with the bright face (Ex 34: 29-35). Elijah also encounters the Lord on Mount Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19: 9-13). Just as in the event of Sinai (Ex 19: 20; 33-34), here also in the Transfiguration there is the revelation of the new law. To listen to the Beloved Son in whom God the Father is pleased (Mt 17: 5). This new law, given by God on Tabor by means of the new Moses, reminds us of what the Patriarch says in the Book of Deuteronomy: “Yahweh, your God will raise up a prophet like me; you will listen to him” (Deut 18:15).
THE ORDER OF CARMELITES – Lectio
EXCERPT — Life is a journey. For most, it is a two-fold journey: the journey out and the journey in. The journey out is the professional journey comprising education, training, earning a salary. The second journey, the journey in is the spiritual journey… Our maps are made one journey-step at a time in the company of Jesus. Spiritual journeys are often not mapped out clearly, ahead of time, but are seen only when we pause, turn around and look back where we have come from. Were we to have tried to look ahead when we were back on our journey, the map would have looked like the maps of ancient cartographers who drew dragons and monsters where there were no known paths or ships’ courses.
OBLATES – Homily Helps Feed
EXCERPT — Last week, we watched Satan take Jesus up to a high mountain. This week, Jesus leads Peter, James and John up the same way. Perhaps even to the same mountain. Satan took Jesus to a mountain to show him the ways of the world, the kingdoms and all their glory. Jesus took his closest friends up the mountain for an intimate glimpse into who he was, in all his glory. This story is full of subtle references to the history of Israel that, when we understand them, make it all the richer… Today’s liturgy invites us to gather with a few others and to climb our symbolic mountain, away from distractions, where two or three can be together with Christ. There, we can share our own visions of who God is in our lives.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – Mary M. McGlone, CSJ
EXCERPT — All four Scripture passages call us to put our trust in God as did Abram. The psalm refrain proclaims, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” The second reading encourages the early Christians to be faithful to their call and trust God in difficult times. The voice from heaven in the Gospel urges the apostles to listen to Jesus, to trust his words even more than Moses or Elijah…But another theme is also revealed in the readings, that of pilgrimage or journey. Abram goes to a land he does not know; Jesus is going up to Jerusalem and eventually to his resurrection. We are all called on a journey of faith, a pilgrimage of conversion to a “holy life” (second reading)…Both themes could come together, too, since we need to trust in God as we make the journey.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Fr. Lawrence E. Mick
EXCERPT — Most of us will not receive a direct command from God as Abram did, yet each day we experience God in our lives. Abram’s encounter reminds us to look for God in our lives. Moreover, Abram is said to be a blessing for others which reveals the power and influence one person can have on the lives of many… As we continue through Lent, today’s readings allow us to reflect on our encounters with God. Abram’s faithfulness to God can be a model for how we should react when we receive a divine call, and Abram also reminds us of the impact our lives can have on others. Peter, James and John, while stunned by the vision of the transfiguration, remind us to continue to prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus in the resurrection.
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT — Abraham was seventy-five. At seventy-five you’ve pretty well seen the landscape. Not much more is to be expected. But for Abraham it was the beginning. There was yet another call: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk, go away from your parents’ house. I will show you. You’ll know the place when you get there. I’ll make a great nation of you out of nothing.” Fat chance. A great nation? Blessings and high achievement unexpected? Get real.Yet this great old man stirred to the voice of God. He gathered his family and things and hit the road.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – Father John Kavanaugh, SJ
EXCERPT — Lent is a time when we are invited to sink deep within ourselves and renew our Christian faith. Understandably, most of the time other things absorb our attention: our families, our jobs, our finances, our health. But we also need time to reach deeper into the ultimate meaning of our lives and discover again the foundation that holds everything together. This seems to be true now more than ever, with a lot of our world in turmoil and a lot of people searching in vain for a meaningful life. — From 2017 Reflection | 2020 Reflections
CHICAGO CATHOLIC – Father Donald Senior, CP