GENESIS 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; PSALM 116 ROMANS 8:31-34; MARK 9:2-10
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai- Transfiguration: Man’s Experience on the Mountain.
Fr. Paul Oredipe: FAITH – Sacrificial Love .
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: The Love for God urges us on
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai-
Transfiguration: Man’s Experience on the Mountain
The readings of today’s liturgy speak of man’s experience on the mountain. In fact, the three readings offer us three mountains for reflection. They are Mount of Moriah (Gen.22:2), (Mount Tabor the place of the transfiguration) in the gospel reading and Mount Calvary (Golgotha) as implied from St Paul’s teaching on Christ death on the Cross (Rom8:32). In the Old Testament, the mountains of Sinai (Law) and Zion (Temple) are most significant. In the New Testament, has so much about mountains but the most significant mountain is the transfiguration mountain.
The Bible makes frequent illustrative or comparative use of mountains to explain the nature of God’s attributes, power, presence, mercy and protection. Mountains are universal symbol of nearness to God thought to be centers for spiritual elevation because it’s height from the ground towards the sky and the heavens. The Jews believed that God was somewhere in the sky and early theology viewed heaven as a place in the sky so for that reason when people climbed mountain they experience divine proximity. However, we now have a deeper awareness that God is everywhere, thus instead of going to look for a physical mountain for prayer we simply ascend a spiritual mountain our private chapels through prayer and deep consciousness of the Divine. Thus when people speak of “mountaintop experiences” today it may not necessarily mean a particular mountain but a moment of transformation and transfiguration birthed by broken hearts and deep prayers.
Today, the first reading speaks of Mount Moriah the location of the sacrifice of Isaac. It is the Mount of test. Where Abraham’s faithfulness was tested and the Angel testified to God that Abraham loves him more than his son. Beloved, we have to undergo tests. Our life is a test. Unless we are tested we shall not be rewarded. Abraham got to that point of his life where he was test. We come to that point of our Christian journey where we must climb mount Moriah – the place of test; we come to the place in school where we must write exams and prove that we have study, moment of test are moment we should persevere. Do not be discouraged because you are being tested if you prevail good! But if you don’t pass it do not kill yourself – it takes darkness to be aware of the light. If you fail, keep trying. Beautiful souls are shaped by ugly experiences. We are never defeated unless we give up on God. Therefore, once you come to that mountain I pray you find the strength of Abraham to remain faithful.
Gospel reading speaks of (Mount Tabor) the place of the transfiguration. Jesus took Peter James and John to a high mountain and right there he was transfigured. That is, his appearance changed. Similar to this event is the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. In both events Jesus took Peter, James and John; in both events the three disciples were heavy with sleep and in both scenes Jesus was visited from on high. The same witnesses were chosen in both scenes so that the memory of the Transfiguration becomes their confidence in the agony in the garden. Therefore, the Transfiguration took place in order to strengthen the faith of the Apostles to be able to overcome the scandal of the cross. On Mount Tabor God revealed his son the same way He will not spare him death on Mount Calvary. The transfiguration prepares us to face and over the crisis of Calvary. In the same vein certain spiritual experiences and encounter in the life of Christians are to foster spiritual maturity and courage to stand the days of crisis and hardship. In 1Sam17:37 David became courageous to face the Philistine when he remembered how God helped him to prevail over the lion and beer in the forest. Your spiritual experience should foster uncommon courage in the face of agony.
The Transfiguration experience is a call to climb the mountains of life: To climb a physical mountain is a difficult task; it requires a lot of determination and endurance. Only those who are willing to follow the Master in the face of troubles that can experience the glory of the Master. Do not be intimidated or discouraged by the mountain of challenges you are facing as you follow Jesus; think of the glory about to be revealed to you. When you have a mountain set before you climb it with Jesus, climb it in the name of Jesus, and climb it for Jesus and you shall receive the crown of unfading glory. I say with confidence that no matter how dangerous the path may be, those who walk with Jesus will come out safely. Those who make Jesus their best companion have nothing to fear.
Again, we must learn not to climb mountain alone even Jesus did not climb the mountain alone he went with Peter, James and John. People have business partners; have prayer partners, who can climb mountains of life with you. There are moment you may be weak you need true partners to lift you up. There are moments you may be sick you need sincere prayers partners to help keep you in prayer. Your prayer partner could be your wife or husband; it could be Brother James, Brother Peter or Sister Mary, it could be those in the same praying society with you. Your prayer partners are those who are ready to step into the troubled waters with you; they are men like Simon of Cyrene who can help you carry your cross; women like Mary Magdalene who will wipe away your tears; they are not those who are scandalized that you have fallen and pour all the insults on you but those who are committed to you having the best result. This season help a brother to climb mountain. Beloved, where is the fallen warrior you have helped?
The Transfiguration experience is a call to be serious with our private prayers: Jesus loved to communicate with his Father in spite of his busy schedules he made time to meet privately with God. Many Christians today have settled for public or communal prayers after that nothing else. Most people spend hours in crusade grounds and after that no more prayer until the next gathering. Without personal altar we cannot grow spiritually. Christians who want to grow must have place and time for prayer. Prayer has capacity to change us and the things around us. While Jesus prayed his body changed when we pray we reflect the glorious nature of God. This nature of God is the nature of holiness, love, charity, kindness, joy, peace, etc.
Transfiguration is a call to be in God’s presence: Peter said “It is good for us to be here” Peter’s statement shows the beauty of the presence of God and the need for us to desire to dwell in His presence at all times. This teaches us that there is a feeling of awesomeness in the presence of God. Ps. 122:1 says I rejoice when I heard them say let us go to the house of the Lord. Ps.16:11 In the presence of God there is fullness of joy. Today’s Psalm says “I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.” Let us walk in his presence; outside his presence there is danger. It was dangerous for the people of Israel to go without the tabernacle – the presence of God. In the same stratum it is dangerous for Christians not to be in his presence. In the Church some have lost the consciousness of his sacred presence and that is why they dress anyhow, talk anyhow, make troubles and disturb others. Some think we are here for show or club matters. Others behave as if it is not good for us to be in the Church.
Transfiguration is a call to listen to Jesus: God spoke and said “this is my beloved Son listen to him”. This is the second time God is telling us to listen to him. We must listen to him; he speaks everyday through the gospel, through the teaching authority of the Church and through our religious obligations but if we don’t listen we learn no lessons. To listen is to make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding (Prov2:2). One who listens well can speak well. God bless you!
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
FAITH – Sacrificial Love
All you need is love. Truly, all we need is love. Love is the most powerful force in the whole world. It is the most basic requirement of the human person from the beginning of existence.
Christian FAITH involves sacrificial love. Without sacrificial love, Christian faith is not complete. In the words of a venerable monk of blessed memory: “A life of sacrifice without a sacrifice is a contradiction.” Also: The measure of love is when you love without measure.
St John teaches us ‘God is love’ … “this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us.” (1 John 4:9-10.) The famous verse in the Bible John 3:16 tells us: “God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son.” Is that not what St Paul reminded the Romans in our Second Reading of today? “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, …” What more could God have done?
God, as love, did not only love us. He demanded that we love Him in return. For those who believe in Him, who believe, accept and profess His love, He specifically asks them to imitate Him. He calls them to the heart of love as well – SACRIFICE. It is not possible to love without sacrifice, though one can ‘sacrifice’ without love. That is what makes the difference. Sacrificial love is the essence of our faith.
We see this clearly in the life and experience of Abraham, “our father in faith” as the Roman Canon describes him, as he was commanded to sacrifice as a “burnt offering” on an altar his only son, Isaac. The prophetic meaning of this story is revealed in the willingness of God the Father to sacrifice His only begotten Son in order to save mankind from Satan, as well as in the willingness of God the Son to be sacrificed in His humanity.
The purpose of the test of Abraham is to enable him to find and express perfect trust in God’s providence, so that in absolute dependence on God’s will, Abraham may fulfill his mission to lead the Lord’s people. The Responsorial psalm for today sums up Abraham’s response: “I trusted, even when I said, ‘I am sorely afflicted.’ Your servant, Lord, your servant am I; you have loosened my bonds. A thanksgiving sacrifice I will make: I will call on the Lord’s name.”
Abraham trusted in God who made the promise, not just in the promise itself. And this is the kind of trust we need to have in God, because when we are confronted with the message of Jesus and it seems so impossible almost, and we cannot understand how it could happen, we have to take God’s word. Trust in the God who reveals this to us in Jesus and clearly, Jesus is the revelation of God. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham could not possibly have known why or how the plan of God could be completed if his only son from his old age was to be sacrificed; yet he trusted that somehow God would make sense of it. That is faith. Some might say that seems almost crazy. Yet, because Abraham was willing to go to that limit God saved Isaac. He did not require the sacrifice of a child to know of Abraham’s faith and loyalty.
My dear brothers and sisters, everyone has an Isaac. Everyone of us has something or someone dear and precious, without which or whom life would seem empty and meaningless.
Yet, when we get beyond the notion of child sacrifice, we are still left with the belief that God does want our complete loyalty and affection. Jesus tells us that we must be willing to turn our backs on everything and everyone, even family and possession, to inherit the Kingdom. “Seek ye first, the Kingdom of God”
What then shall we say this day of our own personal faith at this stage in our journey through Lent? Can we really “let go and let God”? Shall we let go of those things that we cling to, let them go in the sure and certain faith that God will bring good out of evil, life out of death, meaning out of absurdity, and joy out of suffering?
The Psalmist says: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God.” What is our desire? Where is our heart? today. Are you really thirsting for God, the living God? Who is Jesus in our life? Who are you, who am I, who are we in Jesus’ life? What difference does his death make to us? Truly, “A life of sacrifice without a sacrifice is a contradiction”, a blasphemy and hypocrisy. The measure of love is when you love without measure.
St. Paul asks today “Is it possible that He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides?” Have confidence in this. If we ask for His help, God will give us the help we need to overcome our sins. He begs us to repent, to come to Him, and to enjoy the eternal happiness of Heaven, a life that will stagger the mind.
Lent is the season to strip away all that has gotten in the way of having God as the center of our lives. In today’s Gospel passage of the Transfiguration of Jesus, the apostles Peter, James, and John are given a glimpse of the Savior’s true glory. The Gospel passage is a reminder that the glory of the Lord is found not on a mountaintop but in the total sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The disciples would only understand the transfiguration once they experienced Good Friday.
In words of St. Paul “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Eye has not seen nor heard, neither has it entered into the heart of men those things that God has prepared for those who love him” (I Cor 2:9). Whatever small or great hardship or suffering we endure for Christ is nothing compared to what awaits us, if we make an effort to be faithful each day, especially these days of Lent.
We have many challenges in our lives. Whatever the challenge, individual or community, if we take it up and put our trust in God to help us, God will provide. If God is with us, what could possibly keep us from our deepest desire, the desire to be happy with him forever. “Nothing,” St. Paul says, “can keep us from the love of God. Neither persecution nor pain not suffering nor chemical dependency nor psychological conditions nor even difficult relatives can destroy his presence in us.”
We do not have the answers for all the problems of the world and of our lives. We do not even know all the right questions. We are called upon simply to trust. We are called upon to trust in God and to have faith. We know that God is with us and that he will transform our lives. He has always provided for us and he always will as long as we have faith in him.
Lent is a journey of faith. We are called today to trust in the Lord in our deepest struggles. We are called to trust in him when we need him the most. Maybe the real mountain we have to climb, is the mountain of faith. We do not climb this mountain alone. The one gift of the Lord that is never denied is the gift of faith.
The Church has given us this passage to think about here in the second week of Lent. Lent can seem like a sad or difficult time of year, especially if we are trying to reform ourselves as we should be. This Gospel reminds us that the season of Lent is just a prelude to something greater, and that the difficulties we might experience now are nothing compared to the happiness that is coming. The facts that Christ rose from the dead and that we will also rise from the dead truly stagger the mind.
Faith demands that we take that journey from sacrifice to glory. It demands that we separate ourselves from our own selfish desires in order to give to others. This is the path to glory for a Christian. Faith is not just something we profess. Faith is a life that we lead. It is a journey. Sometimes that journey is difficult. Sometimes the journey of faith demands that we turn from our own wants and desires. Faith is a journey of sacrificial love.
That is the message of the Second Sunday of Lent. It is a lesson that must be a reality in our lives for us to be true followers of Christ. We will only be capable of embracing the glory of the Lord if we take the faith journey of sacrificial love.
Lent is the time that we focus in on our journey with the Lord. Lent is the time that we fight against selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, and anything else that we hoard as though the emptiness of our selfishness can fill us. The living present of Lent is the sacrificial journey of the Lord. And yes, it is difficult being a Christian in a world that glorifies selfishness, but our sacrifices give us the joy of experiencing Jesus in our lives. Lent is a joyful season. Lent is the season that we reinforce and perhaps even restore meaning in our lives. For the Life of Jesus gives our lives meaning.
Let us, like Abraham, our father in faith, be more determined, generous and forthright in our sacrificial love. Let us, in imitation of our loving God, who did not spare his only begotten Son, not spare anything or any strength in following our Lord Jesus Christ. Only in his fellowship and friendship can we partake of his glory, if we truly LISTEN to him – if indeed, we truly LISTEN to him. Remember, “A life of sacrifice without a sacrifice is a contradiction.” Again: The measure of love is when you love without measure.
Let us pray:
Take, O Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given to me all that I am and all that I possess. I surrender it all to You, that you may dispose of it according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. With these I possess all and seek naught else. – St Ignatius
. . . . O take me as I am – 2ce
My only plea, Christ died for me.
. . . . O take me as I am
“ _If God is for us, who can be against us?_ ” (Rom.8:31b)
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
The Love for God urges us on
In the season of lent, we take upon ourselves certain acts of mortification; denying ourselves some legitimate pleasures. We do this in order to gain something that is of more value than the legitimate pleasures themselves. It therefore means that as long as we keep that which is of higher value in view, we will be motivated to continue to make sacrifices here on earth. For those who have no idea or conception of eternal life, denying themselves some legitimate pleasures here on earth will not make sense. The readings of today, reveals to us that for us to efficiently make sacrifices in this world, we need some level of knowledge of who God is; a knowledge that continually stirs in us an ardent desire to be with God on a more permanent basis. If there is no hunger for heaven, there will be no lasting motivation to do good.
In the first reading of today, we see how far the love of God led Abraham. Before now, Abraham had had series of encounters with God. God first asked him to leave his land to a strange land that He (God) will show him. Abraham took a step of faith in obedience to the Word of God. The Lord later promised to make him father of many nations inspite of the barrenness of Sarah, the wife. Yet Abraham believed the Lord. In as much as what the Lord says to Abraham seemed not to make sense in human terms, Abraham learnt over time to always oblige since it was the Lord that was speaking. It would mean that if it were not the Lord, Abraham will not follow sheepishly.
This series of encounter with the Lord, built and strengthened Abraham’s love and trust for God. He came to see God for who HE really is. To obey God became more important for him than doing his personal will. Consequently, when the Lord asked that he sacrificed his only son Isaac, Abraham did not object. Not because he did not love Isaac but because he loved the Lord more. His love for God put him in the proper pyramid of attachment; that is, no matter how much we deal with persons and things of this world, our attachment with God should be prime.
Beloved, today we may need to evaluate what we have made out of the series of experiences we have had with the Lord. It is never a wonderful thing to forget the deeds of the Lord. Our encounter with the Lord should increase our desire to be with Him. If we are not experiencing God in a way that is making us love Him more than anything and anyone else, then we really need to re-examine our relationship with God.
In the gospel reading, Jesus led the disciples to the mountain and there He was transfigured before them. Before now, Peter had answered that Jesus is the Messiah; it was now time to hear it from the mouth of God Himself. The essence of the transfiguration was to manifest the glory of God before the disciples. The appearance of Moses and Elijah was very necessary. Moses signified the Law while Elijah signified the prophets. When Jesus asked his disciples who people say that he is, they answered that some said He was Moses, Elijah, or one of the prophets. These names were the greatest spiritual men they had known and heard of. So the much they could say of Jesus was to associate him with any of these great spiritual men.
However, from the account of the transfiguration, it became clear that Moses and Elijah were not simply associated with Jesus, but that Jesus was their Lord; Jesus is greater than Moses and Elijah. The essence of this manifestation was not to prove supremacy but to redirect the minds of the disciples so that they may give due honour to whom it is due.
As they descended from the mountain, Jesus warned his disciples not to say anything to anyone until after his resurrection from the dead. This is because the testimony of the transfiguration will be more useful after Jesus would have physically left them. Before the resurrection, the testimony will be distracting for Jesus. After the resurrection, the disciples will begin to face persecutions and discouragements headlong from different quarters. Then, the thought of the transfiguration will be their motivating factor to persevere in preaching the good news of Christ without fear of threat from authorities or of even death.
Dear friends in Christ, each time we are fascinated by what the Lord has done for us, know that we are witnessing the transfiguration (glory) of the Lord. Abraham’s series of encounter with the Lord before that of today’s first reading, was his own witness of the transfiguration. A time will come when the chips will be down and we will be sustained by the relationship we have built overtime with the Lord. It is a great dis-service to oneself to come to the Lord without the intention to be in a relationship with him. This happens when we see God merely as a problem-solving machine that is needed only when there is a need to be satisfied.
God answers our prayers; He grants our requests in this world so that we may come to understand that only with and in Him that we can truly be satisfied. Consequently in the second reading, St. Paul tells us that if God be on our side, the threat of men amounts to nothing. He who has God, has everything; but he who lacks God, lacks everything.
So, let us be all the more encouraged in carrying out works of charity in this Lenten season and beyond. Whatever sacrifice we make because of God is not wasted; it rather becomes our ticket for being with the Lord for eternity. Know this, in the final analysis, it will be between you and God. God Bless You!