Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent Year C.
by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Genesis 15:5-12. 17-18
Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14
Second Reading: Philippians 3:17-4:1k
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
Our first reading of today comes to us in an unusual fashion that would be strange to any modern reader who is not familiar with the customs, culture and practices of the ancient world. In it we have an extra-ordinary event which no doubt is a ceremony that appears to be a sacrifice but in reality only a ritual symbolic of cutting a covenant (karat berith) - a solemn promise between two people; and in this case, between God and Abraham. It required taking one or more animals to cut them in half, laying them out opposite to each other but separately, and leaving some space between the two halves. Then the parties involved in cutting the covenant would walk down the space between the two halves of the animals. And the meaning of this was; if I break the covenant then let what has happened to these animals happen to me, may I also be severed in two.
In Abraham’s vision today, he saw God performing this rite of covenant, walking through the pieces of the animals in the form of a blazing fire. This was an act of humility, God Himself stooping down to enter into a covenant relationship with humans through Abraham, using the same forms that human beings use. And Abraham was not asked to walk between the pieces of the animals to show that God’s promise was unconditional and signified that His involvement with us is totally gratuitous. His promise was to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens and give to them the land from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River because Abraham had ‘put his faith in the Lord.’ Impossible as this seemed, the promises of the Lord Yahweh to Abraham were fulfilled beginning with the birth of Isaac in old age, then Esau and Jacob, and the sons of Jacob inheriting the land of Canaan, and culminating with the birth of the greatest of all Abraham’s descendants, Jesus Christ Himself. And from then on anyone who believes in Jesus Christ today has become a true son and daughter of Abraham. So if we ‘put our faith in God’ like Abraham, God will also keep His promises to us as He did in the life of Abraham because God is always faithful.
When we look at the incident in the first reading, we realise that it helps us to interpret the Gospel account of the Transfiguration today, making us see the continuity between the Old and the New Covenant. Today’s gospel episode took place exactly eight days after Peter’s Confession and Christ’s prediction of His passion in Luke 9:20-23. Jesus goes with Peter, James and John to the mountain to pray and during this time, Moses and Elijah appeared talking of His exodus which refers to His passion, death and resurrection once again. Moses and Elijah who stand for the law and the prophets represent the whole of the Old Testament pointing to Christ as its fulfilment. So as the Old Covenant with Abraham was sealed with the blood of animals, so the New Covenant would be sealed in the blood of Christ. That is why the Old Testament is meaningless without Christ, just as Christ without the Old Testament would remain a mystery to us (Luke 24:27).
The lessons we can draw from the mountain experience of Christ today is that if we are to share in Christ’s glory then we must be ready to first share in His sufferings. Are you ready and willing to carry your cross and follow Christ in this season of Lent? To do this, we must become friends of His Cross especially in this season so that we will not be lost in the end. True fiends of His Cross know that they are pilgrims on earth like Abraham, and are only concerned with the things of heaven which is their true home. On the other hand, the enemies of His Cross are those ‘whose god is their stomach’ and they glory in what they should be ashamed of (sin). Their only concern is their own welfare and pleasure. Are you a friend or an enemy of Christ’s Cross? Do you only think about your own good, welfare and pleasure? Then you will always misunderstand the plans and purposes of God in your life. Peter always thought of sustaining his welfare, that is why he rebuked Christ’s prediction of His passion in Matthew 16:22-23, and Christ told him get behind me Satan. Today again when the discourse about the ‘exodus’ of Christ was on going, Luke tells us that ‘Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake.’ That means they still did not understand what was going on, and upon seeing the glory of Christ, Peter again spoke, ‘Master, it is wonderful to be here, so let us make three tents…’ Why didn’t he make the same wish when they were talking about the suffering and death of Christ in Jerusalem? Of course the evangelist Luke tells us why, that ‘he did not know what he was saying.’ It means he still did not understand the Messiahship of Christ and was only concerned with following Christ when the going is smooth. Do we follow Him only when the going is good, when He grants us all our requests? Or can we shout, the Lord is good, even when the going is tough, when we are faced with suffering and pain? We must not focus on the joys of Easter forgetting the sorrows of Lent. For our joy to be complete, we all must learn to first of all carry our daily crosses and follow Him to Calvary, so that He can transfigure us into the image of His own glory at Easter. We can do this especially in this season when we learn to listen to Christ and unite our sufferings with His sufferings, for that is why there is Lent before Easter. May He give us the grace of unwavering faith and hope in His promises, so that we will always listen to Him and never derail from following Him to the end. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.