Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Luke 9:28b-36 [27C]
The readings for Second Sunday of Lent highlight human encounters with the divine. From Abraham to the apostles, God’s message has been consistent throughout salvation history: trust in the Lord.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis presents one of the accounts of God’s covenants established with Abraham. In the cycle of stories about Abraham in Genesis 12–25, there are numerous versions of the Abrahamic covenant: Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 22. Today’s reading is an abbreviated story of Genesis 15:1-19. Scholars date this version as the earliest of the four accounts, written during the monarchy period, around 950 BC. For St. Paul, in his evangelization of the Gentiles, Genesis 15:5-6 (the opening of today’s reading) reveals an important insight into God’s master plan for salvation: “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 in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” It was significant to Paul that God rendered Abraham “righteous” by his faith alone, before the covenantal condition of circumcision (Genesis 17) and before the giving of the law to Moses (Exodus 20–26). In this single act of trust in the Lord by Abraham, Paul saw the justification by which Gentiles, who by their profession of faith in Christ, could be saved independent of the Jewish ethnic and cultic markers of circumcision and strict observance of the Mosaic law.
The sacrifice of the animals as part of the ritual associated with the covenant between God and Abraham held significant meaning. In antiquity, the splitting of the animals signaled a covenant between equals; that is, if either party failed to uphold their terms of the covenant, a similar fate of death would await that party. The covenantal promise from God included land “from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates,” a land mass covering the boundaries of the historic Promised Land of Israel, in exchange for Abraham’s enduring faith and trust in the Lord.
The Gospel reading is the transfiguration of Jesus, an event that revealed Jesus’ glory to Peter, John, and James. Within the storyline of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ transfiguration is placed between the first and second Passion predictions, and just prior to the start of Jesus’ long journey to Jerusalem, 9:51—19:28, Luke’s extended travel narrative. God’s voice heard by the apostles during Jesus’ transfiguration—“This is my chosen Son; listen to him”—is a divine directive to heed Jesus’ words during his journey and passion in Jerusalem. Just as Abraham was saved by his faith in God, so too, the apostles were called to have faith and trust in the saving words of Christ.
In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages believers to avoid “earthly things” and to realize “our citizenship is in heaven.” Paul saw the reward for faith in Christ in remarkable terms. Because of our faith and trust in the Lord, in the end-time, Christ “will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Out of the depth of his own convictions, Paul could confidently proclaim, “stand firm in the Lord.”
The readings for today offer us words of encouragement in the early stages of our Lenten journey. Remain focused on all things Christ.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz