I Believe

by Susanna Mak
Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

Romans 8:31B-34

Mark 9:2-10

The Catholic Catechism states, “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day” (CCC 989). When we gather as a faith community to celebrate the Eucharist, we profess in unison, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed). This belief is at the heart of the mystery revealed in this Sunday's readings.

In the first reading, “God tested Abraham” by asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Gen 22:1). Abraham's faith is pushed to its utmost limit; however, God's faithfulness surpasses all human inclinations. At this most trying moment in Abraham's life, God raises up Abraham from the ashes of despair, “Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, [...] and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:16-18). St. Paul encourages us that nothing can separate the faithful from the love of God, not “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Rm 8:35). If we suffer and die “with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Rm 6:8). The Catechism reminds us that “hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole [person], soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed” (CCC 992). Abraham rises, after all, through his unshakable faith in God's oath to him.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reveals his true identity to his friends, Peter, James and John, in a way that is most fantastical and astounding. He is “transfigured … his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mk 9:3). Not only is the Transfiguration a revelation of Christ's divinity, it also foretells Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus “reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to ‘enter into his glory'. [...] 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” (CCC 555). Therefore, our resurrection, like Christ's, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity. St. Paul reassures us that “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you (Rm 8:11). Not only has this vision strengthened the faith of Jesus' disciples, but it has also “prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani” (“Catholic Encyclopedia”, www.newadvent.org). Similarly, as we struggle with life's challenges, pain or even death of loved ones, we are also strengthened by this glorious vision of Christ's Transfiguration.

During the season of Lent, as we remember God's faithfulness to Abraham, may we be courageous enough to obey God's voice, offer our failings and fear to God, and place our trust in His unconditional love. Let us pray:

We rise again from ashes,
from the good we've failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

(Tom Conry “Ashes”)