Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in the season of Lent, and we heard from our Scripture readings today about the Covenant that God has made with us all, His beloved people, and the connection between the story in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis of the action of Abraham obeying God in offering his own son Isaac to Him at Mount Moriah, with the story of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at Mount Tabor before three of His disciples.
First of all, the story of the first reading today showed how Abraham, who after receiving joyfully the fulfilment of the prophecy of the promised son, in the form of Isaac, was asked by the Lord to offer that very son for a sacrificial offering on the Mount Moriah, as an offering for the Lord. Contextually, Isaac was the long awaited son and heir to Abraham, who had waited for a very long time but failed to have any children with his wife Sarah. But God promised Abraham and made a Covenant with him, that he would be the father and progenitor of many nations through the son that he would have with Sarah.
Thus, we can just imagine what must be in Abraham’s mind the moment he heard of the Lord asking him to do what could be considered as impossible for him, to sacrifice the very son whom he had been longing for, to offer him as a burnt offering for the Lord when the Lord had promised this son to him. Yet, as we heard from the story, Abraham obeyed unconditionally and trusted in the Lord, and told the same to Isaac, that ‘The Lord shall provide’ when Isaac was wondering why there was no sacrificial animal brought with them as they went up Mount Moriah.
Abraham obeyed God wholeheartedly although he might indeed be wondering why God would ask him to do something like that. As St. Paul later on would comment on this matter in his Epistle to the Galatians, that Abraham had such trust and faith in God that even if he were to offer Isaac, God would provide and He would do what was impossible, and that His Covenant would last no matter what, and it was this unshaken faith that was rewarded by God when He told Abraham not to harm Isaac, as He had seen how truly faithful Abraham was, even to give his most beloved son to Him without hesitation.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is it then that this story of the offering of Isaac at Mount Moriah can be related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ? On a quick glance, the two stories may not seem to be related, but in truth, the parallel between the two go on truly much deeper than just what is evident on the surface. The offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in fact a prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do to show His faith and commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us.
First of all, the Transfiguration takes place at Mount Tabor, one of the renowned mountains of Israel, just like Mount Moriah. At that time, as it was throughout the history and tradition of the people of Israel, mountains are sacred places of worship of the Divine, and the Lord was worshipped in those mountains. Just as Moses ascended up Mount Horeb when he first met the Lord in the burning bush, and later on, ascending Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments and renewed the Covenant of God with Israel, and as the prophet Elijah also travelled to the same mountain to meet with God, thus appreciating the symbolism of Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor is very important for us to understand today’s Scripture passages.
When Abraham went up Mount Moriah, it was to offer Isaac to the Lord just as how the others at his time offer sacrifices on the mountains to the Divine. Now, when the Lord Jesus and His three disciples went up to Mount Tabor, none of those disciples could have predicted what they would witness at that mountain, when the Lord revealed the full truth about Himself as He unveiled His divinity before them, appearing in the fullness of His heavenly glory together with Moses and the prophet Elijah.
As the Lord appeared in His glory as the Son of God, Divine Word Incarnate before Moses and the prophet Elijah in the full sight of the three disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John, He was in fact revealing before all of them that He truly is not just a mere Son of Man, but also the Son of God Most High, the salvation of Israel and the Holy One of God, sent into the world in the flesh, God’s own Son given to us as the perfect gift of love, to redeem us and save us from the tyranny of sin and death, and to reconcile us all to Himself.
Here is where the connection between the sacrifice at Mount Moriah and the Lord Jesus came full circle, as later on, we know how the Lord would go on to pick up His Cross and go up the Mount Calvary just outside of Jerusalem during His Passion and suffering. This is significant because Mount Moriah was according to the tradition, located at where Jerusalem now stands, and therefore the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah can indeed be compared directly to the offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on Calvary in Jerusalem.
There we see the Lord Jesus, the Promised Saviour of Israel, the Son of God, Who just like Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, was tied and brought up to the mountain, bearing the wood of sacrifice, to build up the altar of the sacrifice, and for the Lord’s case, the Wood of the Cross is His Altar, the Altar of His sacrificial offering of love, where He, as the High Priest of all, offered Himself as the worthy offering for every single one of us, on the Altar of the Cross that day, when He suffered and died for us.
And that is the ultimate proof of God’s enduring love for us, His commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us, that has been renewed and made anew through His Son, Who offered Himself as the Mediator of this New Covenant and as the perfect and unblemished Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, offered for the atonement of all of our sins. His Most Precious Blood was spilled on the Altar of the Cross and hence, purified us who believe in Him from our sins and all the corruptions of those wickedness that have been enslaving us all these while.
What is also significant is how God saved Isaac from being sacrificed at Mount Moriah by telling Abraham to stop and provided a ram to replace Isaac for the sacrifice. This is an allusion to how Christ has become the Lamb of sacrifice Who went through the suffering and death instead of us, that He died on the Cross so that we may live and not perish because of all those sins. The Lord truly loves each and every one of us and wants nothing less than for us to be reconciled to Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we need to do then? First of all, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the three disciples of the Lord did not want to go away and down the mountain from the blissful experience they had on Mount Tabor, even suggesting to the Lord that three tents be made for Him, Moses and the prophet Elijah, the Lord reminded His disciples that it was not meant to be that way. He had to go through the suffering and the crucifixion in order to save all mankind. And the voice of the Father could be heard, telling the disciples to listen to His Son.
This means that all of us as Christians have also been called by God, called to listen to Him and to obey Him. We are called to follow the Lord and as He Himself said, to be His followers, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him, which means that we should dedicate our lives and our actions, to serve Him and to do what He has willed for us and what He has called us all to do. And just as the Lord Himself has not held back giving us His own Son to be Our Saviour, to suffer and die for us on the Cross, then we should not hold back either on giving ourselves to Him.
Let us all be inspired by the faith that Abraham, our father in faith had in obeying God and in putting his full trust in the Lord, the Covenant that God had made with him and in the providence of His love. Let us all be ever more faithful to the Lord in this season of Lent, spending more time with God through prayer, listening to Him and understanding His will, dedicating ourselves ever more to His cause day by day through our own actions in life.
Are we willing to make the sacrifices and the commitment to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and if He Himself has not held back in giving His all for us by giving us Christ to be our Redeemer, and if our forefather Abraham had not hesitated in giving even Isaac, his promised son and heir to the Lord when asked, then how about us? Are we willing to give our hundred percent to the Lord, beginning from now if we have not yet done so?
In this season of Lent therefore we are all called to be better Christians, not just in name but also in deed. This means that just as much as we dedicate ourselves to the Lord and be obedient to Him, we must then show love to our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow neighbours and all those whom we encounter in life. We are all called to be more generous in giving, not just in giving of money and material help, but even more importantly in giving more of our time and attention to others, our generosity in love, care and compassion to those who need them.
We have to remember that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, to those who are in need, we are doing it for the love of God and for our love for our fellow men. This is the kind of faith that God wants from us, and this is the kind of fasting that the Lord also seeks from us, that we do not just fast from food or abstain from meat only, but even more importantly, fast from selfishness and greed, from self-importance and vanity, and abstain from all wickedness in thoughts and deeds, in exchange for true and genuine faith in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus seek the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our might and redirect our attention back towards Him, with contrite heart and with regret for all of our many sins. Let us all be thankful that He has loved us all these while, caring for us and blessing us, being patient with us even as we continue to sin against us. He even sent us His own Son to be our Saviour, dying for us that by sharing in His death through our common humanity, we may share in His resurrection and enter into a new life and existence free from sin and filled with His grace.
May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He empower us all to walk faithfully in His presence always. May all of us have a blessed and most fruitful time and season of Lent, that we may draw ever closer to God and find the path to His salvation and be worthy of Him. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.