March 4, 2012 – Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10
Today, we focus on the cross. All three of today’s readings emphasize, for us, the importance of the cross and its redeeming power.
In the first reading, we hear the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac was his only son, the son for whom he and his wife had waited many years, and yet, because the Lord asked him to, Abraham was willing to give him up to death. Likewise in this story, Isaac, too, was willing. We don’t hear anything of his opposing the events. He was willing to give up his life, simply because God the Father asked him to.
Although the angel stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, this story is clearly an Old Testament type of the crucifixion, when God the Father did, in fact, give His Son up for death – like a lamb to be slaughtered – and Jesus Christ, the Son, willingly assented to be killed.
In a lot of ways we can probably relate to Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac more so than to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is easy to think, “well, He is God.” but when we put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes it’s a powerful reality check. Imagine how it would feel, what it would be like to even consider having your child slaughtered. It’s remarkably gut wrenching – painful to even think about, and yet, that is just what God the Father did. He gave His only Son, allowing Him to suffer and die for our sake, because He knew that was the only way we human beings could attain salvation – God became man taking upon himself the sins of humanity and suffering the punishment for those sins. It is a gruesome reality. It is a painful reality, and, at the same time, it is a powerfully redemptive reality. Coupled with the resurrection it is the turning point of salvation history.
For this reason, Jesus tells the disciples not to disclose the events of the transfiguration until after His death and resurrection – for it is in his passion, death, and resurrection that Christ’s mission on Earth becomes clear. It is in those events that His mission is accomplished. And then, in light of those events, all that He did – the many miracles He preformed, the transfiguration, etc- take on a new meaning. In light of the crucifixion and resurrection, it is clear that He did not come to simply be a wonder worker, but rather to be the Suffering Servant, the Paschal Lamb, the means of our salvation.
But it is not with the crucifixion and resurrection that Salvation History is complete. Rather, we continue to live Salvation History, as Christ’s disciples we continue His ministry of sacrificial service here and now, calling others to serve as His disciples as well.
It’s not always an easy life to live. In fact, living as a Christian disciple involves carrying many of our own little crosses – sometimes in the form of sickness and disease, other times in the form of mockery and jeers, and so many other heartaches and hurts, but when we view them in light of the cross, and unite them with Christ’s own suffering, they can become salvific. The can help us and others grow closer to Christ and give us a greater appreciation of Christ’s redemptive suffering.
Jesus Himself tells us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). That’s what it means to be a disciple. That’s what it means to be a Christian steward – to put service of Christ and the service of others before oneself, even to the point of suffering for it. The life’s not easy, but the rewards are great! God gives us such grace here and now, and we look forward to eternal life in heavenly glory together with Him.