2nd Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – March 17, 2019

2nd Sunday of Lent Theme: God Chooses the Faithful to be Deliverers.

When God chose people for whatever the reason, they usually initially responded with: their questions for more clarification, their resistance because of their humility/lack of confidence or worthiness/fear, their reluctant for a while, … . (People like: the Holy Blessed Mother Mary, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Gideon, Jonah, David, Zachariah, Peter, and Paul.) But their response was not due to their not having any faith. Faith is a gift as a result of being made in the image of God. And, we can mature this gift via our belief and trust in God and our obedience to Him, and especially by what we hear others say about Him. God “knows the heart”, and that’s where our faith resides, so he chooses those who have matured their faith. After finally responding to the “call”, the faithful determine what it is that God wants done and then they deliver it. Sometimes there are covenants made by God to govern the process.

In Reading 1, God chose Abraham (Abram) to lead the “Chosen People” to a new land, because “Abram put his faith in the LORD”. In Reading 2, Paul, a chosen and faithful one of God, delivers a sermon to the people of Corinth to become faithful to God otherwise their end will be “destruction”. In the Gospel, God uses the Transfiguration of Jesus to show His chosen disciples who Jesus is and God, Himself, tells them to “listen to Jesus”, so that they will be able to deliver Christianity to the Jews and Gentiles. The Responsorial Psalm inspires us to have courage to “wait upon the Lord” – to trust Him when He calls.

Lent is a time to focus on our salvation and eliminating our slavery to sin and death. Our past is gone, our future is uncertain, so we only have for certain our “todays” to deliver what God is calling us to do.

“Let us continue to live for His glory, imitating His examples and acting according to His wishes. Otherwise our faith will be of no use if our works do not correspond to our belief” (St. Padre Pio)

Reading 1 – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18     God makes a covenant with Abram, promising him many descendants.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 27:1,7-9,13-14     Wait for the Lord with courage.

Reading 2 – Philippians 3:17-4:1    Paul encourages the Philippians to remain firm in their faith and imitate him who is dedicated to following the true teaching of Christ.

Gospel – Luke 9:28b-36     Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Peter, John, and James.

This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal,,, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document

Reading 1     Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18                      (Covenant with Abram)

Context – The Book of Genesis (Greek for “origin”) records the creation of the world and our first parents, and the origin of sin; the history of mankind from the time of Noah; the Flood; the tower of Babel; the confusion of languages. The author then turns to the descendants of Shem, the eldest (firstborn) son of Noah, and deals with the greatest of these descendants, Abraham, the father of the chosen people. Then follows the history of Abraham’s son Isaac, of Esau’s forfeiture of his birthright blessing, and the succession of Jacob. Jacob’s fortunes are next related in detail. Lastly, the personal history of Joseph is told, and the migration of his father Jacob (Israel) and his brethren into the land of Egypt.

Today’s Reading – This covenant-making reading opens with God promising Abram land and descendants. Considering that both Abram and Sara were nomads (owned no land) and beyond childbearing years (had no descendants), God’s promise seemed entirely impossible to fulfill. Nevertheless, Abram placed his trust and faith in God’s ability to fulfill His promises.

The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” He added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith [i] in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness [ii].

He then said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.” “O Lord GOD,” he asked, “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” [iii] He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Abram brought Him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him. [iv]

When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.
[v] It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” [vi]

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          A covenant is an agreement between two parties and identifies the responsibilities for which each party is accountable plus consequences are defined in the event of incompliances. Further, a covenant may be described as “a legal way to make someone part of your family.” (Like a marriage covenant – i.e. vows.) It can be said that the Bible is essentially the story of God trying to establish an extended family for Himself by reaching out to humanity time and again via covenants. There were covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus (the New Covenant – i.e. now), and then, in the fullness of time (Jesus’ Second Coming), will be the fulfillment of the New Covenant.

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14                   (Wait for the Lord with Courage)

This psalm speaks of trust in God. Abram, against all odds, placed his trust in God.

R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of You my heart speaks; You my glance seeks.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek. Hide not Your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living
[vii]. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 

Reading 2     Philippians 3:17 — 4:1             (Citizenship in Heaven)    

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless-love, and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – In these verses, Paul is expressing concern that his beloved Philippians will be mis-lead by the bad example of some people in their midst who are “enemies of the Christ”. Paul tells his readers not to imitate such people. Rather, they should imitate him who is dedicated to following the true teaching of Christ. Paul reminds the Philippians that here on earth they are pilgrims. Their true home is in heaven. Their involvement in the world must be tempered by the realization that everything here on earth is of a temporary nature.

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself. [viii]

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Gospel     Luke 9:28b-36                  (Listen to Jesus)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – The story we hear today, about one year prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, is about the Transfiguration of Jesus – an epiphany story. In epiphany stories, the veil, which separates the invisible world from the visible, and the future from the present, is removed temporarily and the divine is revealed. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes with His inner circle to pray. During His prayer on the mountain, Jesus has a mystical experience. God’s presence is revealed to Him in a very powerful way. “While He was praying, His face changed in appearance.” And the two giants of Israel’s religion appear, Moses (symbolizing the Law) and Elijah (symbolizing the Prophets).

Then a heavenly voice speaks: “This is My chosen Son; listen to Him.” These words were a wonderful act of affirmation for Jesus by His Father. For the Apostles, it was a moment of great revelation. The One in their midst was truly God’s Chosen One! They must listen to Him and follow Him.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white. [ix] And behold, two men were conversing with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus [x] that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. [xi] As they were about to part from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the Cloud came a voice [xii] that said, “This is My chosen (beloved) Son; listen to Him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 568 – Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of His Passion (Suffering): the ascent on to the “high mountain” prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what His Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: “the hope of glory”.

[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
Faith” = “May your faith be joyful, because it is based on awareness of possessing a divine gift (St. John Paul II). “As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your soul” (1 Peter 1:9)
[ii] “righteousness” = Righteousness means being in a right relationship to God. The living, dynamic relationship between us and God wherein we are spiritually and morally acceptable to God.
[iii] “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” = The Blessed Mother Mary’s response at the Annunciation was only a process question – “… how shall this be done?” – without the slightest degree of unbelief. Compare this to Abram’s (and Zachariah’s) responses that were validation questions – they wanted to see “signs” before they would believe!
[iv] “terrifying darkness enveloped him.” = Theologians conjecture that God revealed to Abram in this deep sleep, the future oppression of his descendants in Egypt, which filled him with such horror.
[v] “a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.” = The presence of God is symbolized by fire, passing between the divided beasts, to ratify the covenant. Recall that God appeared to Moses as a flame at the burning bush; to the Jews during the exodus as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.
[vi] “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” = Perhaps Solomon’s empire would have extended so far. At least, the early Jews would have enjoyed these territories, if they had been faithful and not have had to experience their Exile.
[vii] Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living” = We shall see this bounty during our lifetime.
[viii] Reading 2 Footnote:
“the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself.” = The following Gospel reading also tells us about Jesus’ glorified body at His Transfiguration.
[ix] Gospel Footnotes:
“While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.” = The aura of unnatural brilliance is associated with mystical experiences – e.g. Moses’ face after receiving the Ten Commandments and Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus.
[x] Moses, Elijah and Jesus “spoke of His exodus” = Saint Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers to tell us what Jesus, Moses and Elijah were discussing – Jesus’ mission to go to Jerusalem and be crucified, then spend 40 days on earth before ascending.
[xi] “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.” = Apparently this Transfiguration experience took place at night.
[xii] “Then from the Cloud came a Voice” = The Father’s voice, the chosen Son, and the Cloud of the Holy Spirit manifest the presence of the Blessed Trinity.