Second Sunday of Lent – B

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                                     “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Jesus, Son of God, open our ears and our hearts so that we listen to you. Amen!

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.

He called to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he replied.

Then God said:

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,

and go to the land of Moriah.

There you shall offer him up as a holocaust

on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,

Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.

Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,

“Abraham, Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he answered.

“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.

“Do not do the least thing to him.

I know now how devoted you are to God,

since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

As Abraham looked about,

he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.

So he went and took the ram

and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:

“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,

that because you acted as you did

in not withholding from me your beloved son,

I will bless you abundantly

and make your descendants as countless

as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;

your descendants shall take possession

of the gates of their enemies,

and in your descendants all the nations of the earth

shall find blessing-

all this because you obeyed my command.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.1 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.2

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”7

CCC 1819 Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice.8 “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.”9

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”10 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”11 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.12 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.13

1 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.

2 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.

3 Cf. Gen 1-26.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Cf. Gen 17:4-8; 22:1-18.

9 Rom 4:18.

10 Heb 11:17.

11 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

12 Rom 8:32.

13 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

APPLICATION

The faith and trust of Abraham in the true God whom he had got to know only late in life, and about whose power and love he did not know a fraction of what we know, should well put us to shame. Abraham left his country, his home, and his kin at a time when one’s life depended on the strength of one’s clan. He came to a foreign land about which he knew nothing. There he lived among strangers who had no time for invaders and “foreigners.” All of this looks easy on paper but what a sacrifice it must have been for Abraham to leave his own people, to travel the long desert journey from Haran in Assyria to Canaan, and then to try to earn his daily bread in unfriendly, if not positively hostile, surroundings. All of this Abraham did because he was convinced of this true God’s omnipotence and fidelity to his promises. Abraham was glad of the role that God had chosen for him—the human agent through whom the great divine blessing for all peoples would come.

Abraham’s second test of obedience and trust, of which we have just read, was even a more severe trial than the first. He was asked to give up forever his only real son and thereby be unable to fulfill the role God had promised him. Here again Abraham’s trust in God gave him the strength and the courage to do what he was told. Abraham’s prompt, unquestioning obedience pleased God—he did not have to sacrifice his only Son. His goodwill, his desire and readiness to obey God’s command, were proof enough of his justice, fidelity, sanctity.

How many of us could imitate Abraham? How many of us who have seen God the Father sacrificing his beloved Son in his human nature, offering him as sacrifice for our sins on the cross, could or would measure up to Abraham’s prompt obedience when God demands some sacrifice of us? How many of us who can devoutly make the Stations of the Cross, and see and feel the insults, degradation, tortures that the innocent Lamb of God suffered for our sins, will turn around soon after and refuse to give up some sinful association, some personal and unlawful gain, some habit of gluttony, or personal animosity against a neighbor? Such unwillingness to sacrifice something much less important than an only son, for the sake of God and our own eternal welfare, is far indeed from the prompt and ready obedience of Abraham.

We all have much to learn from this saintly man who lived nearly four thousand years ago. He is our father in the faith, for it was through his descendants that the knowledge of the true God was preserved on earth, and it was from one of his descendants that our Savior – the Messiah – took his human nature. We should, therefore, remember him with gratitude and we should show that gratitude especially by our endeavors to imitate his spirit of obedience and submission to God’s will. Let each one of us look into his or her own heart today. There are desires and plans and attachments there, which God is asking us to sacrifice, to burn up, to destroy during this lent. They are trifling sacrifices compared with that demanded of Abraham, but they are big enough to keep us from true loyalty to God in this life and are a very positive impediment to our entrance into heaven in the next.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

(116:9) I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said,

“I am greatly afflicted.”

Precious in the eyes of the LORD

is the death of his faithful ones.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;

you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

My vows to the LORD I will pay

in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

READING II

 

 

 

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Rom 8:31b-34

Brothers and sisters:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son

but handed him over for us all,

how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?

It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?

Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-

who also is at the right hand of God,

who indeed intercedes for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.1 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”2 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”7

CCC 1373 “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:8 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”9 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,10 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present. .. most especially in the Eucharistic species.”11

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”12 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”13 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.14 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.15

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.16 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”17 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”18

CCC 2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.19 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

CCC 2852 “A murderer from the beginning,. .. a liar and the father of lies,” Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.”20 Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be “freed from the corruption of sin and death.”21 Now “we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”22

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. “If God is for us, who is against us?”23

1 Cf. Jn 8:46.

2 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.

3 Rom 8:32; 5:10.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Rom 8:34; cf. LG 48.

9 Mt 18:20.

10 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

11 SC 7.

12 Heb 11:17.

13 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

14 Rom 8:32.

15 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

16 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

17 Heb 7:25.

18 Rom 8:26-27.

19 Cf. Rom 10:12-13; 8:26-39.

20 Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9.

21 Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 125.

22 1 Jn 5:18-19.

23 St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 30: PL 16, 454; cf. Rom 8:31.

APPLICATION

These four short verses of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans are among the most encouraging and consoling scripture passages in the whole Bible. He tells us God and Christ are entirely in favor of admitting us to heaven. He admits that there are some enemies who would try to prevent us from getting there, but he logically concludes: what can any enemy or number of enemies do if God and Christ are our defending Counsels and Judges? In brief “if God is for us who is against us?” Paul’s whole letter is full of proofs that God is for us, the greatest proof of all being the fact of the incarnation and crucifixion of his Son, for us sinners. If God went to those lengths in order to bring us to heaven it is more than logical that he will give us the lesser gifts and the assistance that each one of us needs in order to get there.

The Christian who keeps vivid this consoling knowledge of God’s love for him and God’s interest in his eternal welfare should never have a sad moment in his life. The things that cause us worry and trouble in life are trifles, when compared with the assurance and certainty we have of final triumph. That assurance comes from God’s infinite love, so definitely proved to us by the incarnation. St. Paul goes on in the very next verse after the text which is read today (8: 35): “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword”. . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. . . no created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the assurance that St. Paul gives the newly converted Christians of Rome and it was not based on any speculation or wishful thinking, but on the solid proofs of God’s love for us which the incarnation so definitely demonstrated. Let no one say: this might be all very true as regards the early Christians, they were full of zeal and full of the love of God; they were not likely to feel all the weaknesses of the flesh and all the attractions of the world which we feel today; life was easier then, they could give more time to the things of God than we can today, the struggle for existence was not so hard for them. St. Paul who knew human nature very well and who had dealt with thousands of converts would deny such statements absolutely. He knew the Roman converts were subject to the same human weaknesses as are all men of all ages. He knew they could, and very likely did, sin occasionally but he also knew that they had been instructed on how to repent of their sins and had enough interest in their eternal welfare to do so.

They had the same weakness that we have, they had the same enemies opposing their salvation. We have the same remedies and protections as they had; they used these remedies and were saved. Shall we not be as active in our own best interests as they were? God is as much for us as he was for the Romans, he wants us in heaven and he has done all that was necessary (and much more) to get us there. If we fail in our final examination one of our greatest causes of grief will be that the fault is completely and entirely our own. We can blame no person or thing in heaven or on earth for our dreadful failure except ourselves. Pray God today, that you shall avoid such grief. You will, if you try always to keep before your mind what God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has done and continues to do daily for you. “If God is with us who is against us?” God is ever with us if we do not deliberately and seriously separate ourselves from him.

GOSPEL

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Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John

and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them,

and his clothes became dazzling white,

such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,

and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!

Let us make three tents:

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;

from the cloud came a voice,

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone

but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,

except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

So they kept the matter to themselves,

questioning what rising from the dead meant.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him.1 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”2 We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”3 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.4

CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”5 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”6 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”7 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.8

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”9 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.10

CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;11 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”12 Christ, the “living Stone”,13 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.14

CCC 649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.15 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. .. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”16 “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.”17

1 Mk 1:11; cf. 9:7.

2 Jn 14:1.

3 Jn 1:18.

4 Jn 6:46; cf. Mt 11:27.

5 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

6 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.

7 Jn 15:12.

8 Cf. Mk 8:34.

9 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

10 Jn 4:9.

11 Cf Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.

12 Mt 16:18.

13 I Pt 2:4.

14 Cf. Lk 22:32.

15 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34.

16 Jn 10:17-18.

17 I Th 4:14.

APPLICATION

This vision of Christ glorified, given to these Apostles on Mount Tabor (the traditional site of Transfiguration) was surely a very special privilege, and it was one they did not forget. “We saw his glory,” St. John says in his gospel, written over sixty years later. In his epistles John also refers to this privilege (1 Jn. 1: 1-4). St. Peter, writing from Rome to the churches in Asia Minor about thirty years later, mentions this outstanding experience: “For we were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when from out the majestic glory a voice came down to him saying: ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice we ourselves heard borne from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pt. 1:16-18).

Yes, the three Apostles were privileged and we too are sharers in their privilege. The Transfiguration of Christ is but one among many of the incontrovertible proofs of the divine Sonship of Christ which we have in the gospel narratives and in the twenty centuries-long history of the Church which he founded. Were he not divine, that Church would long since have crumbled and fallen under the many vicious assaults from outside which it has undergone, as well as from the many human weaknesses which have beset it from within. But Christ is God and the Church has his divine protection and assistance. Therefore, it will go on to the end of time to continue his work of elevating and redeeming mankind.

This enlightening glimpse of Christ’s future glory – a glory in which they would share – was given to these Apostles to strengthen and encourage them in the terrible test of their faith which the passion and death of Jesus would be for them very soon. It is for a similar reason that the Church orders this story of the Transfiguration to be read to us during this season of Lent. We are or should be mortifying ourselves during this season. This mortification can earn for us a glorious and unending future life. To encourage us to continue it, we are reminded that the One we are following, the One whose voice we listen to, is none other than the Son of God. There are the voices of many false prophets shouting around us, telling us to enjoy ourselves in this life, to “eat, sleep, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” but there is the rub – tomorrow we shall die, but where shall we go then?

Let us thank our divine Lord today, for giving this consoling and encouraging vision of his glory to his Apostles and through them to us. It was for them, and it is for us, a guarantee and a foretaste of the joys and the glory that will be ours for eternity, if we but persevere in our struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil. This struggle is not easy for our weak nature, but our loving Savior is ever beside us to “raise us up and tell us not to fear” if we but rely on him. When we are tempted to give way to our human weaknesses, or to give way under the weight of the crosses that sometimes are about to crush us, let us think of Mount Tabor, and the glorified Jesus, who a few weeks later faced his own real passion and cross cheerfully for our sakes. This thought will help us to carry our crosses as the thought of the future glory which will be ours should make us thank God that we have been created and thank his beloved Son for setting us on the road to that future glory.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James, and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9: 7). When one has the grace to sense a strong experience of God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives “on Tabor” while on earth. Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God… This is the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in every word, preserved in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

God, our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son, help us to become heirs to the eternal life with Him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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