Genesis 15, 5-12 and 17-18
- The first time through the reading, I find it remote to my experience.
When I look for a place to settle and raise a family, I have to purchase land from someone else. But in this passage God tells Abram that he has brought him here to give you this land as a possession. I must dig deeper, and work my way back to the ancient Middle East when Ur of the
Chaldeans was not a heap of ruins but a bustling trading depot – while the land of Canaan
was no more than a distant outpost.
- The reading is linked to today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus by the appearance of
a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch that signaled God’s presence. But
I hear much more than that.
- Look up at the sky. Just so shall your descendants
be. I hear a promise of abundance for a couple who have no children. Everything is possible for God!
- I am the Lord your God who brought you. It is the
same Lord who spoke to Moses. God acted first and always is acting first.
- Abram put his faith in the Lord. The apostle Paul
cited this verse over and over, to show the churches that we do not act on our own behalf but to fulfill the promises of God,
to accept the great gift of God.
- How am I to know that I shall possess it? I will
pause before this question, to show that Abram sees a problem. In Genesis it
is made clear that other people were already living there, and that Abram had to settle on some semi-arid land on the southern
frontier. Bruce Feiler’s book Walking the Bible brings this out
- The details of the animal sacrifices are so striking, and so stimulate our imagination, that I should
let them tell themselves. All of nature is present, starting with Abram, followed
by the birds of prey and ending with the sunset and the dark and the deep terrifying darkness that enveloped
him. Finally, beyond nature, the flaming torch that passed between the
pieces. Let me use my storytelling skills, but also confirming that
the fire consumed the sacrifice.
- Climax: The Lord made a covenant with Abram. That is what it all means.
- Message for our assembly: Oh, by the way, Muslims also trace
their origins to this man Abram, who would become Abraham. Does that fact mean
anything to us?
- I will challenge myself: to take all of us back to the first stirrings
of covenant in the hearts of the people who taught us how to pray to the Most High God.
Philippians 3, 17 to 4, 1
- This is the kind of exhortation that we hear frequently in Lent.
My listeners would be expecting it. What should they carry with them?
- Be imitators of me, and observe those who thus conduct themselves. The apostle is using bold language and I should make it sound bold when I say it.
- Then comes the other side. Many conduct themselves as enemies of the
cross of Christ. And he says it not dispassionately but even in tears. What should my mood be here? Bitter disappointment? I think it is closer to grief over the divisions among the apostles despite his personal
appeal for unity among them.
- We await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The prayer,
almsgiving and fasting that we do in Lent should make us more alert to the presence of Christ in our midst, with the needy
and the people at the edges of society.
- He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body. The sentence is fairly long, but I think it will be easy to understand and remember if I take my time and
make short pauses, especially around the word subjection.
- Climax: Our citizenship is in heaven. This sentence
puts the apostle’s discussion in context. It also speaks to our own worldwide
anxiety over the great migration across our various borders, whether in Florida, France or Syria.
- The message for our assembly: The apostle would say the same thing to us, to stand firm in the Lord.
- I will challenge myself: To find my exhorting voice and inspire the church to a faithful observance of Lent.
Luke 9, 28-36
- Luke is the re-organizer par excellence, so let me hear how he arranges the scene on the mountain of transfiguration.
- Right away I do not hear that Jesus “was transfigured.” I
do hear the equivalent facts behind the event: His face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. I can read it with surprise or – even better – with wonder, building to
the word ‘dazzling.’
- Moses and Elijah spoke with him of his exodus – that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. A lot is going on here. These two great
souls represent Israel and both underwent
a divine exodus, Moses through the sea and Elijah in a fiery chariot. Here, repeating
the Greek original may work better than English translations such as ‘passing’ or ‘departure.’ But it will be lost on my listeners unless I read it carefully, perhaps by pausing
- Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but became fully awake. I remember that Jesus is praying; where will this happen again in the Gospel? Once I was expected to meditate early in the morning for an hour, and far too often I would drowse off,
to catch myself later. I read now with sympathy!
- Again Peter spoke for the disciples, but He did not know what he was saying.
I can say it with great sympathy, having been there myself and missed the point.
- There is more human reaction yet to come. They became frightened when
they entered the cloud. Later, they fell silent and did not tell anyone
what they had seen. For this evangelist, Jesus does not explain anything
to his disciples. They react as we might react when we do not catch on to something. But why didn’t they go on to tell anyone?
The Gospels are filled with telling, except here. I want to leave that
puzzle with the church, for us to work out with the homilist and later in our own meditation.
- Climax: This is my chosen Son; listen to him. It comes down to
- Message for our assembly: Our church authorities have declared that the Lord Jesus is the only way to the world’s
salvation. But do we, who have heard this teaching all our days, take his message
and his witness seriously?
- I will challenge myself: To reach out to the divine presence in mundane events.
From Word to Eucharist: We
have progressed in our faith. We have much farther to progress in our faith. Abram believed. Jesus shows us the way. Let us get over the choreography in the communion rite and approach the Lord with
a child’s confidence.