2nd Sunday of Lent – A Higher Perspective
When I was in seminary in Winona, MN (for my last two years of undergrad), I loved to enjoy the bluffs that were on the back edge of campus. Whether it was a nice jog, cross country skiing, or even a game of disc golf, it was great to see the world, and the university, from up there. The best view of campus was from what we all called “the rock” that jutted out and over the trees for a spectacular vista.
In our life on earth, we don't get enough opportunities to see things from that distant, far-reaching perspective: too busy about the day-to-day things that are always urgent but rarely important, we fail to spend time examining our past and future to see what God is weaving with our lives, and thus we can get wrapped up in the challenges and difficulties (some big, some small) that haunt our present.
I can't imagine the depth of suffering that Abraham must have been feeling in today's first reading – because I don't have a son and so God can't ask me to give him back. However, I have seen my own grandparents and other parents in this parish lose a child, and I can guess that the anguish Abraham must have been experiencing on an emotional level must have put him intellectually and spiritually into a huge dilemma about who God is: Does God change his mind? Have I done something so wrong? What is he trying to make of all of this mess?
And somehow in the midst of that terror, Abraham is able to trust in God. Even though he is a mess internally, he carries on his obedience to the God who has never abandoned him in all of his trials, and eventually he comes to see that God's plan was much bigger than what it seemed at the time. He was given a foretaste of God's enduring faithfulness. Up on that mountain, he is able to glimpse the events of his life from God's perspective. And this is exactly what the Fathers of the Catholic Church had noticed: that the story of the binding of Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, where God Himself offers his own Son on Mount Moriah-Calvary after Christ carries the wood for the sacrifice on his own back in the cross.
The ability to trust in God's boundless Mercy when everything seems a disaster is exactly what the Apostles receive in the Transfiguration. On another mountain, they are given a foretaste of the future: what God's providential plan has in store for Christ and for them. This is because they are about to be traumatized by the horror of the passion, death, and crucifixion of the Messiah, the Hope of Israel, to whom they have devoted their entire lives. It is the Transfiguration that keeps the Apostles united in prayer until they encounter the Lord in the Resurrection.
In our lives, God has shown Himself to us, if we only take the to step back and reflect on where we have been. Allow God to remind you of those glimpses of His Plan that you have seen – for it is only from them that you will be able to draw the strength, (just as Abraham did, just as the disciples did) to endure in the difficult times. May the Eucharist, the Transfigured Lord, be our food along that road.