Lent is a time of prayer to re-assess Our Lord’s place in our lives. He does not just tell us his place; he shows us. Today’s readings all give us insight into what the Lord’s place is in our life and what it should be. The key, in prayer, is to make both those things coincide.
In Richard Harris’ portrayal of Abraham the sacrifice of his son Isaac was due to him focusing so much on having his long-desired son and heir that he started to neglect his duties as patriarch. His willingness to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah showed that no matter how precious his son was, the Lord came first. However, Isaac also represents a promise fulfilled by the Lord: if we focus on the Lord fulfilling his promises and not on him we are not putting him in first place, just what he can do for us.
As Abraham and his son are going up the mountain Isaac asks him, innocently, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7-8). Abraham’s response may seem to avoid the painful answer, but it also has the marks of a profound act of faith: “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” In the end the Lord did provide a lamb for a burnt offering, and Abraham’s faith was shown to always put the Lord first. In the Second Reading today St. Paul reminds us how the Father showed us our place: he loved us enough to sacrifice his only son. He provided the Lamb for the sacrifice–his Son–that Abraham in the end was not required to sacrifice. What place does he have in our lives if he is willing to spare us nothing?
Our Lord in today’s Gospel shows his place in the grand scheme of things in order to prepare his disciples for the trials to come. When he comes down from the mountain he will take up the march to Jerusalem and to his Passion and death. Mark reminds us that those disciples didn’t understand the Resurrection, so it is no surprise that they wouldn’t understand the Passion either. Peter is described as “terrified,” but he could also be considered awestruck. Seeing Our Lord flanked by Moses and Elijah showed his place with regard to the Law and the prophets. That was enough to show Our Lord was the Messiah, but the voice from Heaven and the cloud also revealed Our Lord’s place in the Most Holy Trinity: the Son of God. He does not reveal himself in order to lord it over us; he reveals his place in the grand scheme of things and in our lives in order to encourage us when trials come.
Spend some time this week seeing, with Our Lord, whether there is an “Isaac” in your life toward whom (or which) your attitude needs to change. If that someone or something is irremediably coming between you and Our Lord it may be time for a sacrifice. The Lord always comes first. Let’s put him there.
Readings: Genesis 22:1–2, 9a, 10–13, 15–18; Psalm 116:10, 15–19; Romans 8:31b–34; Mark 9:2–10. See also Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B, Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle C, Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle A, 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, and 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A.