A reading from the book of Genesis
(Chapter 22: 1-2,9a,10-13, 15-18)
This reading is foreign and horrible to us, even after these thousands of years. The first line is the clue: “God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am!’ he replied. Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”
What? God is asking Abraham to kill his only son, the child God had promised when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was beyond child-bearing age? And worse still, Abraham agrees: “Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.” But in the nick of time God says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy…. I know now how devoted you are to God.”
So, this is a story, not an historical event, to show the devotion to God embraced by Abraham, the father of his people. The Book of Genesis and beyond throughout the Pentateuch is full of these stories about the journey of the people of Israel. Some may be historical, some not, but all tell the story of God’s Covenant with his people, our ancestors in faith.
“I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” Do you ever feel that you are, indeed, “walking with the Lord.” Are there times when you feel closer to God than usual? These experiences may not come often, but when they do, let’s stop a while and be as present to God as we can. These wonderful gifts may pass quickly but their memory is itself a powerful presence. They may come again when we least expect them to help us on our journey not the Mystery.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
“Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us?” Did you ever have a feeling that everyone was against you, or at least many were, including people whom you love? Saint Paul has a gift to share with us, especially when we are down: “Christ Jesus it is who died—or rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”
Yes! Jesus is with us always but most present when we need help the most. We need only to ask and then ask again and again and again. It does not happen automatically, and it may happen in ways and from sources that are a complete surprise. We never know, until we know.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9: 2-10)
In the scriptures, mountains are important places to meet God, as we saw in the Genesis reading. Here we go again: “Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.”
Peter, he of powerful emotions, is so stricken by this that he tells Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
“Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”
Have you ever been to the mountain with Jesus? Of course, it need not be an actual mountain. It could have been at home or in a special place, or anyplace, at a time when your heart was open to Jesus. And you wanted to stay on the mountain with Jesus as Peter did, but then he was gone. Yet, something remained within you that would assist you in navigating the way down the mountain and living your life a little more whole and healed.
We never know when the mountain and Jesus will appear or then disappear. We need only to be open to journey with Jesus into the Mystery.
Painting: The Transfiguration, Raphael, circa 1520
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.