9, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-9
THEME OF THE
The most extraordinary faith of the Old Testament
introduces us to the most extraordinary love of the New.
Abrahamīs sacrifice of his son, Isaac, inspiring and admirable as
it is (First Reading), is only a pale shadow of
what it prefigures: Godīs sacrifice of his only-begotten Son (Second
Reading). On Mount Tabor, God wanted
to reveal to the leaders of the apostles Jesusī true
identity, not only so that their faith could survive the
scandal of the passion, but also so that they might
understand the depth of his love for us (Gospel).
Father. The liturgy is dominated today by
two father – son relationships, both characterized by an inexpressibly
great heroism. Each father loves his son like no one
has ever loved. Abraham lives for his son Isaac; the
inspired writer makes a point of underlining just how deeply
he loves the young boy. It appears as an unsurpassable
paternal love. Yet when God speaks of his Beloved Son,
he is – as we know by faith, and theology
which is "faith seeking understanding" – expressing a love that
trumps all the paternal and maternal love in the history
of the universe a million times over. And each of
them is prepared to offer the beloved one in sacrifice:
Abraham in the obedience of faith to a God whose
mystery and whose thoughts surpass him; God the Father in
obedience to his own faithful love for human creatures: and
being the same love, it too is infinitely greater than
the deepest and purest human love ever known.
son. Each son freely takes on himself the wood
required for the sacrifice, and though neither of them could
humanly wish to be the victim ("Where is the lamb
for the sacrifice?" "Father, if it is possible, take this
chalice away from me"), each one trusts in the love
of a father who could never abandon him (the verses
from Genesis with these details are omitted in todayīs Reading). Each one is an innocent victim. We know,
though, that the innocence of the second, the Lamb of
God, is of another order altogether; that he accepts his
sacrifice with full knowledge of what awaits him; that he
will continue trusting even in what seems to be the
total absence of his Father and complete abandonment by him.
And as Peter and his companions will learn on the
mountain, he is not just a son of Abraham, but
the only-begotten Son of the Almighty.
For the sake
of us all. Moreover, for Jesus there will be
no reprieve. God instructs Abraham to substitute a ram for
Isaac, but Jesus himself is the Lamb who is substituted
for all Godīs other sons and daughters: us. Under no
obligation but that of love, "he did not spare his
own Son but handed him over for the sake of
us all". After this, nothing else can ever really be
called generous in the same sense. That he gives up
the Son for whom his love is limitless means that
his love is also limitless for those in whose favor
the sacrifice is offered. This is what St Paul deduces, with the guarantees it represents.
Catechesis. Providence and the scandal of evil (272
– 73; 309 – 14); or the Fatherīs love (see
catechesis for Fourth Sunday of Lent).
The obedience of faith. Sometimes faith has to bow its
head in uncomprehending obedience. This was certainly Abrahamīs case: what
could he possibly make of Godīs command to sacrifice the
son through whom God himself had pledged to make him
the father of innumerable descendants? Yet obey he does, and
this is what enables God to make visible for all
time his exceedingly great love. What would have happened if
Abraham had been like us, and taken the "logical" or
"reasonable" path? If he had preferred to defend his "legitimate
self-interests" instead of following Godīs strange paths? We should all
try, certainly, to understand our faith as best we can.
But faith calls first of all to obedience to Godīs
plan and his will, whether we understand or not. If
we only did what "made sense" to us, we would
be our own little god.
Love overcomes evil. One thing we can never
fathom is the existence of evil in its various forms.
Why does God permit this, or that? Why does he
remain silent in the face of injustices that "cry out
to heaven"? How can he allow the suffering of so
many innocent people? There is no one explanation for evil;
the whole Christian mystery is a response to the mystery
of evil (CCC 309), crowned by this one incontrovertible reality:
"God did not spare his only Son but gave him
up for us." We donīt know very much; we just
know that God is for us, and so there is
no person or power in heaven or on earth that
can overcome us. Consequences: be sure that in the end
love will prevail. The best thing you can do to
alleviate suffering is to spread love around you. Young people:
donīt go begging for the leftovers of love when you
are already loved so infinitely by God himself.