1st Reading – Genesis 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18
It’s important to know this passage comes from the “Eholistic” source: an oral tradition written down in the Northern half of the Holy Land in the middle of the 8th century BCE. The authors of this particular source seem to have been prophets, disturbed by constant pagan pressures inflicted on their readers. Many of these non-Jewish people actually sacrificed their children to the fertility gods and goddesses they worshiped; if Yahweh were to actually demand the Israelites sacrifice their children, they would do so, no matter the cost. But the writer reinforces their belief in Yahweh as a God of life by reminding them they’re to “redeem” any child they’d sacrifice with an animal. In Abraham’s case, Isaac is redeemed with a ram. In narrating this story, the Eholistic author is more interested in Abraham’s dedication to Yahweh than in the psychological harm such a scenario can inflict on the participants. Abraham, as the first Jew, sets the example for all other Jews. He’s depicted as someone totally loyal to Yahweh. The constant intent to do whatever Yahweh wants is what sets him and his descendants apart from all others. Certainly makes them “holy,” deeply different from those around them, (Dignity USA weekly email for this week).
Notice how Abraham continues to listen to God, even when he hears such a difficult message. In fact because of his faith in a God who is a faithful friend he listens with hope and an expectation that in the end God will bring forth life. Due to this kind of listening, he was able to hear the words: “Do not lay your hands on the boy.” Only this kind of listening can lead to new life and a deeper appreciation of God’s love and power. (“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
In reflecting on this passage, Rabbi Harold Kushner wondered if Isaac may have had developmental issues. He was born to elderly parents who had to arrange a marriage for him, so it’s a possibility. Maybe Abraham hearing God’s command could actually have been his own ambivalence about having to raise a special needs child, (The Book of Job, p. 23). Food for thought.
2nd Reading – Romans 8: 31-34
Here we are assured by Paul that God is not only with us – Emmanuel – but God is FOR us. What meaning do you find in this? How is this connected to the 1st reading about Abraham and Isaac?
When Saul was thrown from his legendary ‘high-horse’ and blinded, he awoke as Paul, to know, to love, to follow the One who called him. From that hour forward his life was an unwavering Adsum, Hebrew for “Here I am, Lord!” No other force sustained him, no other love motivated, so that he could say: “If God is for me, who can be against me?” These scriptures challenge us to say the same: “Here, I am, Lord!” (Celebrations, March 2003)
The cross is a great act of love . . . God accepts, affirms, sustains, and supports us – He loves us – by taking his place with us, in and through Jesus. He has chosen to be with us in our brokenness. He has come to stay. “There is no dark corner of human existence which will ever be able to separate us from him again.” Now suffering and death are signs of his presence and power. This is why we “proclaim the death of the Lord,” (John Dwyer, “Theology of the Cross”).
The Gospel – Mark 9: 2-10
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil . . .
Because the Holy Spirit over the bent
World with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
High mountains have often been sites for theophanies or ‘godly manifestations;’ clouds that overshadow were seen as signs of the divine presence. Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had this gospel in mind when he said the night before he was killed: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain . . . And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” After King’s death, his experience of the mountaintop inspired his followers to continue his work. Jesus’ disciples were also inspired by such experiences to continue Jesus’ work of spreading the Good News of God’s love – despite the hardships that might entail. We, too, need to look at Jesus, listen to him and be similarly transformed. (Celebrations, March 2003)
Both Moses and Elijah were prophets whose whole lives were transformed by God’s presence and power. Both experienced God on Mt. Sinai – Moses receiving the Law and Elijah receiving God’s power and presence in the silence after a storm. In Jewish thought, clouds were regularly connected with God’s presence: Exodus 16: 10; 19:9; 33:9; 1 Kings 8: 10; 2 Maccabees 2:8. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, 210.)
God moments end, and we have to go back down the mountain. The good news is, we can take them with us. We can let those good, wonderful times transfigure us. They can light us up and help us to take on what comes ahead. We can be refreshed. We can know that God enters in and doesn’t go away. Jesus walks back down the mountain with his friends. They are ready to take on what is ahead together. God’s love never goes away, no matter where we are, and we are transformed by it.
As Christians, how do we come down the mountain? Do we keep ourselves “apart” and in tents, or are we challenged to do more? What “tents” separate people in our society today? (Questions posed by Barb Forte for our RCIA meeting this week.)