Scripture Commentary for Sunday, 2/24

2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

Let us pray:

Lord, open our eyes to see your glorious presence

shining-forth in our sometimes hum-drum, sometimes tragic lives.

Open our ears to your voice that calls with love.

Open our hearts to receive and to give away . . .

for you are the glory hidden in our everyday lives.

Fill us with your Spirit as we plow through the dark earth of our existence.

We place in your hands all our fears, needs, joys and blessings.

It is good for us to be here – in your company . . . Amen

1st Reading – Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18

This Abram becomes Abraham. He is a wandering, desert nomad.

The word righteousness means to be in right relationship with God.

What does it mean to you that Abram’s faith was counted as righteousness?

From John Kavanaugh, S.J.:

Lent and this reading remind us that we often settle for too little, expect too little of ourselves and of God. In the promises that God made to Abraham there is challenge. Abraham had to look far beyond himself, to the sky and the stars – and to an imagination that could trust in a future beyond all his reckoning. At this time Abram had no land, no descendents. He had to trust beyond this present emptiness. As all the readings today will tell us, there is someone other than ourselves whom we must listen to , trust, obey. This is where faith begins. ( )

From Celebration, March 1998:

This strange ‘ceremony’ that seals this covenant with God is derived from the manner in which such covenants (agreements) were sealed in ancient times. It was called cutting a covenant (berit karath). According to this ancient ritual, animals were sacrificed and divided. Then, the contracting parties stated the terms of the agreement and swore the allegiance while standing between the slaughtered animals. This meant that they would accept a similar fate if they did not live up to this agreement or covenant. Thus, it is very important that in making this covenant with Abram, God did not require him to walk through the midst of the slaughtered animals. He was put into a trance (a divinely-induced sleep), while God alone passes through the sacrifice: God will not demand Abram’s life in the case of a broken covenant. God’s agreement with Abram is purely gratuitous, a gift, given only by the mercy and transforming power of divine love. In the midst of the darkness, there was a fire-light. Abram was to trust this divine promise and care, even amid what seemed to be insurmountable circumstances and fearful darkness.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001 and 2007:

Many saints have said that when they went looking for God, they found darkness instead. St. John of the Cross called this experience the “dark night of the soul.” Abram also experienced a deep darkness. It was probably not a pleasant place to be – sitting in the desert hour by hour watching five animal carcasses wondering what he was doing trying to save them from the birds of prey. In the presence of such death, he must have wondered about his own. He must have missed his wife, Sarah, his own tent, the warmth and comfort of home. Then, it says that he fell into a trance that plunged him even deeper into a terrible darkness. But then — light, heat, searing flame! God’s presence came scorching through the darkness; God’s glory passed through the carcasses forever pledging God’s faithfulness. When we find ourselves in a dark night of doubt, may we remember Abram who became Abraham, the one of faith who became the father of many.

2nd Reading – Philippians 3: 17 — 4:1

This is written probably when Paul was in prison.

How does knowing this affect our understanding of Paul’s words?

What meaning does this reading have for you?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001 and 2007:

When Paul talks of the “enemies of the cross” he is warning the people of those who would come to take their faith in Christ away – those religious leaders who still insist on being saved by religious, ritual law – dietary laws (“their God is their stomach”) and circumcision (“their glory is in their shame[ful parts]”. They are so caught up in the letter of the law that they miss its spirit – that which gives life. Jesus had said the Sabbath and the laws of religion were created to assist us – to bring life not division.

Today, perhaps, there is another way to understand the ‘god of our stomachs’. Could we see this as a symbol of our yawning hunger for acquisition of every kind? We want, we desire, we wish, and we yearn. We window-shop, surf the Net, and dream of something more . . . greed can often feel like need, but is it? Augustine reminds us that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

May we find ways this Lent to be hungry for the living God,

the one who can satisfy us with real food . . .

The Gospel – Luke 9: 28-36

God’s voice tells us to listen to Jesus.

How do you try to listen to Jesus in your everyday life?

How does this story of transfiguration speak to you this year?

Note that just before this passage in Luke’s gospel Jesus is sharing with his disciples about the difficulties that they will be facing when they get to Jerusalem – and that following him entails carrying a cross . . . Then, after this transfiguration Jesus comes down from the mountain to face a young boy with an evil spirit. Jesus drives the evil away – but again reminds his disciples that suffering will also come.

How does all of this speak to you about God? About life?

Note that Moses, the great law-giver, and Elijah, the great prophet,

are with Jesus – what meaning do you see in this?

How might we live this story in our own lives?

William Barclay makes much of this phrase: “when they were fully awake they saw His glory.” In life we so often miss things because our minds are asleep. What are some things that keep us from being fully awake and aware?

Prejudice is one. We may be so set in our ideas that our minds are shut – shut to others and to God’s ever-surprising ways.

There is also mental lethargy. Sometimes we are just unwilling to engage in the “strenuous struggle of thought.” Yet, Plato said that “The unexamined life is the life not worth living.” We must not be too lazy to ‘fight’ our way through our doubts, questions, and fears. May we let life with its sorrows and joys, loves and needs awaken us to all that the Lord wishes to show us!

(Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 125-126)

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001:

This story can help us ask: where would you expect God to be: in the brilliance or in the shadow? Actually, God is revealed in both. God’s glory can be seen in the light, but God’s voice is heard clearly in the darkness. Think of how often this is true in our own experiences of life – birth, beauty, illness and grief . . . God is with us in the light and in the darkness . . . may we have eyes that truly see, and ears that hear . . .

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year C, 135+:

In Luke’s story, Jesus went up the mountain to pray. Prayer is a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life in this gospel; he prays before all the important events of his life. He also takes Peter, James and John with him, just as he will do in the agony in the garden, another time of prayer and decision. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, the headquarters of religious power and authority. If his mission is going to try to bring about the needed change, he must go to this place of power and bring his message of God’s love, which is freely given for all. What does God want him to do? In his apprehension, he seeks God’s presence. He turns his face to God; God’s light shines forth in him and through him. But when he comes down from the mountain, there will be another time of darkness and decision. In the garden, he will again give himself to his Father’s will. What does that mean? God could never have willed Jesus’ death. His death was murder; God does not will murder. However, God did will Jesus’ faithfulness – in the midst of this horrible darkness and suffering. His faithfulness leads to his death, a death that is the result of his whole life and ministry. But, his death does not end in death – but through death comes resurrection – for Jesus and for all who follow him . . .

Why is remembering all these stories so important?

“Remembering for Israel and for us is a special kind of remembering. It is a remembering that looks to the stories of the past and brings them into the present as a living reality.” This kind of remembering is called anamnesis. “The covenant made with Abraham is an ongoing, living covenant . . . The Eucharist is a living memorial, an anamnesis of the new covenant” through Jesus.

(Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year C,135)

It is a remembering that asks us for our interaction, our commitment, our repentance, and our openness to God’s forgiveness and mercy.

It is our way of living Psalm 27. Jesus’ transfiguration – in all its glory – cannot erase the stark reality of self-offering. Simply put, glory only comes through embracing the passion . . . Baptism is our covenant with God; it is an enactment of Jesus’ death and resurrection as we are plunged into Jesus’ dying and rising in the baptismal waters. It is not just a ritual we perform, but a pledge that we live out the rest of our lives – to live our commitment to love in the ‘good times’ of glory and the ‘bad’ times of self-giving. (Living Liturgy, 2004, 74)

From “The Word Engaged” by John Kavavaugh, S.J., :

Lent prods us to repentance. Right from the start we are told: ”Repent and believe the Good News” or the older one, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent is uncomfortable; it tells us that there is something wrong with us. I am not okay and neither are you. We are insufficient. This life is not enough. This is not easy stuff in a world full of excuses and plea-bargains.

The most we want to admit to is making a mistake or having a behavioral problem. We often do not like the old song “Amazing Grace” that calls us wretches, reminding us that we are lost and in need of being found – that we are blind, and in need of sight. And, we know that Lent will end with a story of cataclysmic failure: betrayal, brutality, cowardice, and degradation.

Yet, the crucified one rises; his wounds become glorious. The meaning of Lent rests upon such a transfiguration of our minds and hearts – a dying and rising from the ashes. It calls us to believe there is something, Someone, for us beyond the stars and the everlasting hills . . . Like Paul, we are called to stand firm – not on ourselves, but in the Lord.

Let us pray:

O Lord, help us to ‘make time’ to be with you.

Be our Hound of Heaven, calling us to yourself.

Help us to silence the voices of noise and confusion,

of self-satisfaction, laziness, and fear.

May we be aware of your powerful presence

as we begin each day –

and in the darkness of each night,

may we trust that you are near.

May we hear your voice from deep within . . . Amen.

2 responses

  1. Wonderful collection of commentaries. Just what I needed this quiet Saturday night.

  2. thank you. Goes along with some of the readings I did this morning

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