There are a lot of mysteries in the readings today.
What do we make of them?
Mystery number one:
why would God tell Abraham
to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice?
It would be fun to go through this passage line-by-line,
but that would take too long.
But I would argue that God had no desire
for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac;
God had no need for Abraham to do that.
Rather, it was Abraham who, after a long struggle of faith,
Needed finally to pass the test of his own faith,
after having failed it so many times.
And so, God, understanding that Abraham needs this, allows it.
Only at the last moment does he stop Abraham and say,
“I know now how devoted you are.”
God didn’t learn anything he didn’t already know; he knew all along.
But what do you suppose it meant for Abraham
to hear those words from God?
And that leads to mystery number two:
what is the transfiguration of Jesus in the Gospel about?
What does it mean?
Jesus knows who he is. The Father knows who he is.
But do Peter, James and John?
This happens after Peter has said to Jesus,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And yet, when the Lord reveals to Peter
that he will be crucified, Peter is aghast; he can’t accept that.
An ancient tradition holds
that this event happened 40 days before Jesus was executed;
that’s why we read it every year on the second Sunday of Lent.
This revelation of Jesus’ glory was something the Apostles needed.
They would be shaken to the core by the crucifixion.
In this they see a promise of the Resurrection.
Again, Jesus didn’t need this;
but to ask the question I posed about Abraham:
what must this have meant for these Apostles?
These three apostles would all suffer greatly for their witness;
Peter would be crucified; James beheaded.
Jesus wanted them never to forget what they witnessed.
And that leads to mystery number three.
In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus unveils a glory
that was already there, yet hidden most of the time.
Do you think that is true for us as well?
I tell you that it is!
All around us is God’s Creation.
I don’t know if you pay attention to these stories,
but I notice almost every week there’s an article about scientists
trying to unravel the mysteries of how the universe began;
and more than that, what the universe is made of.
Do you realize that most of what makes up the universe
is completely a mystery to science?
They call it “dark matter”—
meaning, its nature and properties are hidden to us.
Still, what you and I do know is pretty marvelous.
We’re learning more all the time about the complexity of our world,
including the complexity of what keeps us healthy.
I can’t explain the wonders of what makes me able to see you,
or you able to hear me. Most of the time we don’t even think about it;
yet those wonders are there, all the same.
When God created the world and everything in it,
he called it all “very good.”
There is something to be said for respecting and valuing
the treasures of our environment.
That doesn’t mean we have to endorse every law or regulation
someone wants to propose;
but we must never forget what the word “Creation” means:
all this was created by God, entrusted to us, and deserves respect.
When God created man and woman, he stamped us with his own image.
Do you want to know what the face of God looks like?
Look around you.
Every face of every human being you ever meet looks like God.
When you were baptized,
you were clothed in the glory of the Lord.
The priest puts a white garment over the child;
but that is merely a poor symbol of the hidden, true glory.
In baptism we are clothed with Christ!
Parents, if you could see it, when your child was baptized,
he or she would radiate the same blinding radiance
that Jesus revealed to the Apostles.
When you and I sin, we mar that glory; we soil it.
When I had my first new car,
I remember how unhappy I was to see the first scratch.
Would that we were as sorry about the sins that soil our souls!
But that’s all the more reason
to give thanks for the sacrament of confession.
If we could see the hidden glory,
what would it look like when the priest gives absolution?
Something like the hidden glory of baptism, I think;
and maybe something like what the Apostles saw.
Jesus showed his glory to the Apostles
because he knew what darkness lay ahead for them.
Are you facing darkness and trial?
John would stand at the foot of the cross a few weeks after this;
many of us are standing by family or friends who are suffering.
The crosses many of us face are pretty harsh;
it’s so tempting to give up.
You and I, too, need to see the hidden glory.
We need it so we remember what we stand for;
what we live and die for; what lies ahead for us.