Second Sunday of Lent – Year B

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Peter G. Gori, O.S.A.
Church of St. Augustine
Andover, Massachusetts

Readings
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
Rom 8:31b-34
Mark 9:2-10

Not many people look forward to taking tests. That is quite normal. Even when we feel that we are well prepared there is that heightened anxiety, even dread. Remember the anticipation for your driver’s license exam? Perhaps my heart beats faster, the palms of my hands perspire, I might be easily startled. I become thirsty. Some people even get physically ill. Then there are some who try to fake illness to avoid taking a test. That doesn’t usually help. It only delays the matter. The drama doesn’t help! What helps best, according to the experts, is to be well rested and well prepared over time. In other words, steady, consistent preparation, not “cramming.” Some say that the dread we feel before a test is but a glimpse of our own mortality. Sounds dramatic, but I think there is something to that.

One of the more famous tests in the Bible is the one that Abraham faced, which is described in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, chapter 22. Abraham was a very good man, a man of faith. He was well prepared by his strong faith and trust in God to face the test to which he was put. When God called to Abraham, he responded ready and willing, “Here I am!” Then came the test, what we might call a “pass/fail” test. This means one chance to get it right or wrong. Now, that is pressure! God asked Abraham to sacrifice the life of his only son. Remember this was the beloved son, Isaac, that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had longed for and in whose birth they took such delight and hope. Abraham made all the preparations to comply. He kindly evaded Isaac’s pointed question when Isaac asked his father where is the sacrifice. After Abraham had demonstrated his willingness to give all to God, God interrupts the action and Isaac’s life is spared. A ram is provided to be the sacrifice.

Did God need that test? I think not. After all, God knows everything. It was Abraham who learned from that test. He learned how truly strong his faith was and in the process, we who ponder this event can come to admire and hopefully imitate Abraham’s faith. So it is with many events that happen to us in life, our faith is tested, so to speak. How we respond, how we rise to the occasion, demonstrates to us the strength of our faith and in the process it can become stronger. It works. The more I trust God the more and better I become at trusting God.

Good teachers and good study habits will help us be prepared for tests. How often have you heard a teacher say, “If you have been studying all along, you have nothing to fear on the test.” Jesus is the best of teachers. In taking Peter, James and John up the mountain to witness His Transfiguration, He was preparing them for their tests. Jesus let them see a glimpse of future that awaits. What they saw was so extraordinary and overwhelming they would have liked to have remained there and in that condition. However, that would be like skipping the test and somehow making the grade without it. It doesn’t work that way. They had yet to endure the test of Jesus’s own death on the cross and resurrection from the dead and their own personal passage through death to eternal life. So they did and so will we. Jesus’s Transfiguration was not only for their benefit, but for ours, too. Jesus want us to be as well prepared as Abraham, Peter, James and John. Are you working on it?