Saturday, March 11, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 554-556, 568: The Transfiguration
CCC 59, 145-146,2570-2571: The obedience of Abraham
CCC 706: God’s promise to Abraham fulfilled in Christ
CCC 2012-2114, 2028, 2813: The call to holiness

“The Transfiguration” by Andrea Previtali, c. 1515
Reading 1: Genesis 12:1-4a
Commentary on Gn 12:1-4a
The genealogy of the Hebrew generations that ended with Abram and his wife migrating to the land of Ur (Genesis 11:27ff) sets this reading as a formal introduction. Abram (later Abraham) is chosen by God to become a great leader of people in holiness. "The universalism that marked Genesis chapters 1-11 having now failed, the Lord begins anew, singling out one Mesopotamian - in no way distinguished from his peers as yet - and promising to make of him a great nation, not numbered in the seventy nations of chapter 10.  What the Lord promises Abram (his name is changed to "Abraham" only in Chapter 17) - land, numerous offspring, and blessing - constitutes to a large extent a reversal of some of the curses on Adam and Eve - exile, pain in childbirth, and uncooperative soil (Genesis 3:16-24)."[5]
The blessing provided here is discussed at some length in the notes on this section: “Shall find blessing in you: the sense of the Hebrew expression is probably reflexive, "shall bless themselves through you" (i.e., in giving a blessing they shall say, "May you be as blessed as Abraham"), rather than passive, "shall be blessed in you." Since the term is understood in a passive sense in the New Testament (Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8), it is rendered here by a neutral expression that admits to both meanings; so also in the blessings given by God to Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and Jacob (Genesis 28:14).”[6]
CCC: Gn 12:1-4 145; Gn 12:1 59; Gn 12:2 762, 1669; Gn 12:3 706, 2676; Gn 12:3 LXX 59; Gn 12:4 2570
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Commentary on Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Psalm 33 is a song of praise and thanksgiving.  In this selection the emphasis is on faithfulness to God who has saving power combined with hope, a central component of faith in God. The sense of God’s adoption of his chosen ones is expressed as the singer rejoices in the interdependence of the people and God’s love.
Reading 2: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Commentary on 2 Tm 1:8b-10
St. Paul encourages Timothy to be outspoken for the sake of the Gospel which was entrusted to him through the “imposition of my hands”(1 Timothy 4:14). He also tells his protégé not to worry because redemption is a free gift of Christ, not won by personal deeds.
CCC: 2 Tm 1:8 2471, 2506; 2 Tm 1:9-10 257, 1021
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Commentary on Mt 17:1-9
In the opening paragraph of St. Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, James, John, and Peter see Jesus take on a majestic appearance, with imagery consistent with Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:9-14) and then be joined by Moses the giver of the Law, and Elijah first among the prophets.  Scholars agree that uniting and fulfilling the Law and the Prophets represented in this tableau was a key message of this event.
The suggestion by St. Peter that he erect three “booths” suggests the Jewish Feast of Booths which commemorates the revelation of the Law by Moses at Mt. Sinai; a close parallel is emphasized as the ultimate revelation of God in Christ is now played out.
The “bright cloud” is another Old Testament symbol used to represent the immediate presence of God (see Exodus 19:9 and 24:15-16).  From within it God speaks the same formula used at Jesus’ baptism (see Matthew 3:17) providing the final absolute identity of Jesus as the Christ.
This event is recounted in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) confirms that Jesus is the Son of God. While some scholars point to this as possibly inserted here as a post-resurrection redaction, modern thought is that, because of Old Testament images and Jewish non-canonical apocalyptic images expressed in the brilliant light, white garments and overshadowing cloud, the event is appropriately placed in Jesus' lifetime.
In this account especially we are reminded of the Baptismal event as God’s proclamation is similar to that recounted as Jesus came up from the Jordan “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
CCC: Mt 17:1-8 & par. 554; Mt 17:5 444
Our focus during the beginning week of the Lenten Season has been to get into our personal discipline.  We may have struggled a little as we refocused our prayer on the penitential journey.  Given the readings from Sacred Scripture assigned today we feel like we need to hurry to catch up with our internal transformation – the emptying theme of the first half of Lent. 
We hear at the beginning how Abram was selected by God to become the great patriarch of the Hebrew people.  It seems clear from the context within which this event occurs that the genealogy from the previous chapter must have been developed to fill the gap between the collective memory of the tower of Babel and the appearance of Abram.  We get the feeling of how God’s adoptive reach is extended as we hear his plan expressed.
Through all of sacred history the touch-points are brought out as we fast-forward to the Transfiguration event in St. Matthew’s Gospel.  In it we find two other great figures, Moses and Elijah, also selected by God to play roles in his plan of salvation.  The epic time scale of God’s love is bookmarked with the appearance of these patriarchs seen with Jesus. The Lord is once more identified as God’s “beloved Son” – the final intervention by the Father to reveal his plan for us.
It is almost like the “Readers Digest” version of salvation history placed in front of us.  And what is the goal at which this action is pointed?  One method used in business to determine where a company is headed is to look at the major decisions it has made in the past.  By taking all of these significant decision-points out and letting them speak for themselves, we can see an overall direction or character.  We can do the same with the “touch-points” given in salvation history today.
God’s creation was documented in the first part of Genesis.  It was clear how the Lord struggled with his human creation.  At times we marvel at his patience as his obstinate creation seemed bent on ignoring every good thing the Father tried to place in its path.  Finally he selects Abram to start on the long journey of revelation.  It was clear that our grasp of the Father’s plan would take eons to be perceived.  Along that path he placed heroic figures, Moses the giver of the Law, and Elijah preeminent among the Prophets, guiding the people toward an understanding of the Father’s plan.
Finally, when it must have appeared that his children were once again going to miss the point, God sent his only Son to complete the work started at the beginning of creation.  The tableau placed before Jesus' disciples on that mountain was indeed revelatory.  Here was Jesus of whom God said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”  They see with Jesus Moses symbolizing the Law, and Elijah symbolizing the Prophets, coming together with him.  Jesus is the ultimate revelatory event.  We see his plan revealed from the beginning to the transfiguration event and see also where it is pointing. 
Christ is God’s love poured out for us.  His presence, then and now, directs us to the state where we too can grasp the total of God’s vision for us, and see the peace of his kingdom.
Back now to the present, what are we to be pursuing with our Lenten discipline? This ongoing attempt on our part to transform ourselves is spurred forward by a reminder of the great plan the Father has for us.  If we were tentative in our efforts in the first week, these reminders of the plan the Lord has for us should stimulate us to greater action through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

[1] Catechism links are taken from the HomileticDirectory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The picture used today is “The Transfiguration” by Andrea Previtali, c. 1515
[5] The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, © 2004 pp. 30
[6] See NAB footnote on Genesis 12:1-4

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