28th February, 2021

pilgrimage up a snowy mountain

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B

In today’s liturgy of the Word, on the second Sunday of Lent, we heard about two mountains: Moriah and Tabor. In the first reading, we heard a very dramatic story about Abraham and his only beloved son Isaac. As we heard, God put Abraham to the test saying to him: Abraham, Abraham. Take your son, your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.

We can only imagine what was happening in the heart of Abraham at the moment when he heard these words from the mouth of God Himself. Although the Book of Genesis doesn’t describe his feelings and internal struggles, we can easily imagine that at that point Abraham may have asked God questions like: Why have you chosen me and my beloved son? What wrong have we done you and when have we offended you and failed your expectations of us? Since you are a loving father full of mercy and compassion, why are you giving me such a cruel command and task to carry out?

I think that each of us at different stages of our lives – to a greater or lesser extent – has been tested by God. Perhaps we were struggling with some health problems or perhaps our marriage fell apart or we’ve lost something very precious to us. Or perhaps the ongoing pandemic and all the restrictions, our loneliness and abandonment by others are a kind of test in which God wants to check our faithfulness and trust in him. Perhaps our daily lives sometimes seem like a constant, hopeless and difficult climb to the top of the mount Moriah.

However, in this first reading, there is also a very positive message and a very happy ending to fill us with optimism during this holy time of Lent. As we know neither Abraham nor his son Isaac remained on mount Moriah forever but at some point, they came down from it, and – as I guess – they never went back there again. And it is very similar in our lives. Each of us – to a greater or lesser degree – experiences what Abraham experienced in today’s first reading. Each of us experiences mount Moriah – that is – each of us experiences such days, weeks, months or even long years during which God puts us to the test, He tests our faith and our trust in him. Of course, we never know how long this particular test will last and at what stage God would say to us: that’s enough! But we can be certain of one thing. God doesn’t want us to stay on mount Moriah forever and even if today we find it difficult to believe, at some stage we will hear the words that are very familiar to us: Because you have done what I asked you to do – says the Lord – and because you have not refused me anything, I will shower blessing on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.

Today’s gospel tells us about a completely different mount, that is mount Tabor. It is a mountain on which the three Apostles: Peter, James and John experienced indescribable delight and happiness seeing their master looking completely different than before. His clothes became dazzingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. As we heard, Peter expressed his delight saying: Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here. Sometimes we also experience similar delight and fright at the same time. Sometimes we are excited and very delighted with God and other people, we admire the beauty of nature and every gift we receive from his bounty every day. In such situations it is easy for us to pray and give thanks to God for every joyful day He gives us. But as we know, the lives of the Apostles were not only a constant delight and excitement, because like Moses, they had to come down from mount Tabor and face the realities and difficulties of everyday life. Soon after the transfiguration of Jesus – so beautifully described in today’s Gospel – all these apostles had to face something completely different and difficult for them because – as we know – they witnessed the betrayal, the sorrowful passion and the death of their Master Jesus Christ.

I think we should all be aware that each of these two mountains, both mount Moriah and mount Tabor, they are – in a way – some part of our daily lives. It can be said that sometimes our life resembles a difficult and exhausting climb to the top of the mount Moriah, and sometimes it is like an easy and exciting climb with Jesus to the mount Tabor. I think that in each of these walks or climbs, we should be aware of the constant presence of God and His care in our lives. And this is the most important message of the Word of God for us today on the second Sunday of Lent. Moreover, this is exactly what St. Paul wants to tell us in the second reading to the Romans: With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Let us take this message of St Paul with us and share it with joy with everyone we meet in the week ahead. Moreover, let us try to treat this time as another undeserved gift of God for me and you.

Fr Gregory