Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Second Sunday of Lent: The Call of Abraham, the Call of Faith
The first readings for the Sundays of Lent this year focus on Old Testament figures. You might remember that last Sunday the reading focused on Adam and Eve. This Sunday the figure from the Old Testament is Abram. Next Sunday it will be Moses. Then David, the week after that Ezekiel and finally, on Passion Sunday, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The message implied here is that Jesus Christ incorporates in himself the entirety of God's dealings with his people. Jesus is the New Adam, who does not turn from God as the first Adam did. He is the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. He is the Successor to Moses. He is the Son of David. He imparts the Spirit upon men as Ezekiel did in the vision of the Valley of Dried Bones. And He is the one who suffers and dies for us as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.
In the reading for today from Genesis, Abram, or as he would later be called, Abraham, is presented as a model of faith. He had reached that age whereby he was respected as a wise and tried leader. He probably worked his way up in the governing council of the people of Ur of the Chaldees, his homeland. He was at that stage of his life where he should settle back and enjoy the fruits of his years of labor. Certainly, the last thing anyone would have expected a 75 year old leader to do is to set himself and his people off into a new direction. But that is exactly what Abraham did in response to God's call. It may not have seemed wise for him to lead his immediate family from their homeland. The talk of his progeny becoming a new nation would have seemed particularly foolish taking into account his age and the fact he had no children. But Abraham put his faith completely in God, and God worked his wonders through Abraham.
This is the type of faith that we are called to embrace. We are called to be different from those elements of the world that do not make God the priority. We are called to leave the security of trusting in our land, or our stuff, and to put our faith completely in God. We are called to be part of a new people, a new breed, who are radically different from the world. We are called to be holy, for that is what holiness is, being set apart for God.
Jesus, as the Man of Faith, trusted completely in His Father's plan for mankind with the faith of a human being who recognized His dependence on His God. This is the same sort of faith that you and I are called upon to embrace. He believed the scriptures that the Messiah would suffer, die and rise. The mysterious meeting on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, today's Gospel of the Transfiguration, strengthened His resolve to let God's plan take effect in Him. Moses represented the Law. Elijah represented the Prophets. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He discussed this with the foundations of Israel’s faith, Moses and Elijah. He would trust God to allow His Plan to be accomplished. And He would not let His disciples say anything about the vision until He had risen from the dead. For you cannot come to any sort of understanding of Easter Sunday unless you experience Good Friday.
We call out to Jesus today as the paradigm of faith. We ask Him for the courage to trust in God. We do not know how God is going to work out that unique reason for each of our existences. We do know that if we trust in Him, He'll find a way to use us to reflect His image in the world. We will not understand exactly what that image is until after we die. Then we will fully know ourselves as we are fully known by God. Still, if we trust in God, He will work in wonderful and mysterious ways through us.
“Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God,” we heard in the second reading for today. It is tough being a Christian. We cannot be part of the pagan world. At the same time, it is wonderful being a Christian. We have been given a great gift of strength, strength that comes from God. Can we withstand temptation? Yes, God gives us this strength. Can we withstand persecution, mockery for our beliefs. We do every day, every time we watch TV, go to the movies, read the newspaper or have any contact with those who are closed to the spiritual. We would rather be mocked for believing than condemned to a hell of unbelief here and a terror of life without His love afterwards. We can bear our share of the hardship because He has given us the power to be holy. That is the Power of the Gospel Paul speaks about in Romans.
Today, as we do every day, but particularly during the season of Lent, today we pray for faith.