By V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
On this Second Sunday of Lent, we encounter two rich and vivid scripture passages. In our first reading, we are confronted with the difficult story of the binding of Isaac. Our Gospel reading presents us with an almost fantastical story of Jesus being transfigured.
On the surface, these two readings could not be more different. The first reading seems to be all about God testing Abraham in a cruel way. The Gospel recounts a dream-like episode where Peter, James and John see Jesus conversing with Elijah and Moses. At first glance, these two readings do not seem to be related at all. However, if we step back and let the two readings speak to our hearts we might actually see some similarities.
Recently, trust has become an important issue in our national discourse. We saw it play out in the civil unrest over the past year. What is the level of trust between minority communities and law enforcement officers? We see it often in the world of politics. Does either side of the aisle trust that the other has good intentions? Or is the trust hopelessly broken? The issue arises with our news media as well. Can we trust what the news is telling us? During the pandemic, we ask if we can trust the vaccine or can we trust what the various healthcare leaders are telling us? Even in our own Church, there is a lack of trust due to clerical sex abuse and how the Church dealt with this crime over the years.
In his life, Abraham was put to the test. Does he trust God? We recall that today’s reading is not the first time that Abraham had to trust God at an existential level. Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, was a gift from God and a delight to Abraham. But he trusts in God that Hagar and Ishmael will be kept safe. So Abraham sends them off into the desert. He can trust God that the promise will be fulfilled because by now Sarah had given birth to Isaac. In our reading today, God’s very promise to Abraham is at risk. Can Abraham trust God? That is the question that confronts Abraham. As it confronts us. Do we trust God? Do we have utter confidence that even if we die, we shall live?
The Gospel passage depicting the Transfiguration is a story of trust as well. Peter, James and John witness the transfiguration of Jesus and in that witness they are transfigured as well. In Mark’s recounting of the baptism of Jesus, Jesus, as he comes out of the water, hears God tell him that he is his beloved son. In today’s Gospel, the three disciples are changed and they hear God say that Jesus is his beloved son. The disciples trusted God and so began to understand who Jesus was. Trust also comes to the forefront at the end of the reading. Jesus tells them not to say anything about the experience until after he has risen from the dead. Unsure of what Jesus meant, the disciples trusted even in the face of losing everything, including the beloved Son of God.
The Lenten season is an opportunity for us to reflect on the trust we have in God. Each of us will encounter a time of sacrifice and loss. As John Kavanaugh, SJ, writes, “We all must face the inevitability of letting go our most beloved person, task, accomplishment, joy. Everything dear to us, everything given to us by God, is subject to death: its own and our own.”
As we stand before this relinquishment we realize that God is here. God stands with us. God’s beloved Son experienced all that we experience, even the final letting go in death. The promise that even though we die, we shall live is not only a promise made by God with Abraham and with us, but one that God makes with God’s very self. That promise is trustworthy.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.