It’s the Second Sunday of Lent, and it’s still true that one of the simplest things you can do to get yourself more tuned in for Mass is by checking out the readings ahead of time. This Sunday, the first reading is Genesis 12:1-4, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, and Matthew 17:1-9. You can find the readings in your own Bible, or by clicking on this link to get them at the USCCB website.
This weekend’s readings present to significant scenes from our faith story. The first reading presents God’s promises to Abram – that moment in which Abram/Abraham’s story really gets rolling. God promises to make of Abraham a great nation, to make Abraham’s name great (or even royal), and that through Abraham there would be a universal blessing to the world.
While he may have understood some of what was to come, Abraham never could have imagined that even today, three of the world’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) would all look back to his life as a key moment in our shared history.
It is notable that God doesn’t fulfill these promises all in one moment. He gradually and deliberately brings things together. The people who had existed as a tribe under Abraham’s leadership grow into a nation as they flee Egypt under Moses’ leadership (fulfilling the first promise.) When David becomes King of Israel, Abraham’s line assumes a royal character. But it is through Jesus – from whom we see something significant this Sunday – that the universal blessing takes on its meaning.
The story of the transfiguration would have helped the three apostles present – Peter, James, and John (the same three who would go with Jesus into the garden on Holy Thursday night) to see that Jesus was much more than just a good teacher: He is Divine. His placement between Moses and Elijah represented to them a great deal of their faith history: the law and the prophets. To have Jesus at the center was to give them some clues that it was Jesus who ultimately fulfills and explains all that has come before Him.
This background information leaves us with a simple question: what do promises to an old patriarch and this revelation to three 1st Century fishermen have to do with us?
Simply put, they give us a clue to the way in which God deals with us – the ways in which God has always dealt with humankind. We see Him working slowly and methodically throughout history, building things up to their proper time. When we get impatient with the ways in which God works, paying attention to Abraham’s story can be helpful… Abraham learned the hard way that God works in His own time. And while many of us might pray for a moment of clarity and certainty in our faith, it is also good to be reminded that these moments of absolute clarity are not in themselves a guarantee of a certain faith (only John would be found at the foot of the Cross… Peter and James had fled in shame and fear, respectively, at the events they’d witnessed).
As we continue this journey through Lent, may we come to recognize both who Jesus is and what He promises us – and may we press forward in allowing Him to lead us forward in our faith.