"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
March 4, 2012: The Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-18
Synopsis: The offering of Isaac in the first reading foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ and thus is a fitting choice for Lent. Although we usually read this story as a test of Abraham’s faith, later Judaism emphasized Isaac’s role and how he voluntarily laid down his life for God. Isaac thus prefigures Christ who “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).
Just as Isaac prefigured Christ, Abraham represents God the Father who “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all,” which is the focus of this week’s second reading. The faith of both Abraham and Isaac is rooted in their hope that God can be trusted and will keep his promise that their descendants will be “countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.”
Commenting on this story, Origen (d. 254) said: “Abraham therefore hoped for the resurrection of Isaac and believed in a future that had not yet happened. Abraham knew himself to prefigure the image of future truth.”
This week’s Gospel reveals “the image of future truth” in the transfiguration of Jesus. Right before this event Jesus told the disciples how he must suffer and die “and after three days rise from the dead” (Mark 8:31). Luke’s version goes even further by connecting this event with Jesus’ passion, which he refers to as his “exodus” (Luke 9:30).
The Transfiguration sustains the disciples with hope by giving them a vision of future glory, thereby fortifying them for the difficult journey ahead.
Key verse: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rom 8:32)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to ‘enter into his glory.’ Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the mountain; the law and the prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings. Christ’s passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant; the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. ‘The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud’” (No. 555).
Benedict XVI: “The appearance of his glory is connected with the Passion motif. Jesus’ divinity belongs with the cross. John expressed this intrinsic interconnectedness of cross and glory when he said that the cross is Jesus’ ‘exaltation,’ and that his exaltation is accomplished in no other way than in the cross” (“Jesus of Nazareth”).
Life application: The transfiguration of Jesus reveals the glory that lies hidden in his humanity. It not only gives us a foretaste of future glory and fortifies us for our Lenten journey, it also shows us the path we must take in order to reach heaven. The Christian life is a continuous process of ongoing conversion and transformation whereby the Lord changes us from the “inside out” through prayer and the sacraments, especially penance and holy Eucharist. If you haven’t been to confession in awhile, Lent is a perfect time to do so!
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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