Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 + Psalm 116 + Romans 8:31b-34 + Mark 9:2-10
Many have been troubled over the story of Abraham and Isaac wondering how God could ask such a thing, but this is not a story about God. It is a story about Abraham. It is all about Abraham. It is about a man who listens to God. It is Abraham’s willingness to listen and obey that reveals the true nature of God not as a God who asks sacrifice, but a God promises to provide and rain down blessings greater than anyone could imagine or deserve.
The Gospel of Mark today confirms the expectation that we are to listen to the voice of God, and those who do listen will experience first a transformation and then a transfiguration into the glory of God. The transformation is seen in lepers who are cleansed, blind who see, lame who walk. This deeper transformation is their restoration within the community of the faithful, as outcasts are touched, healed, and brought home, as sinners are welcomed and included in banquets and and feasts all in the company of the one who shows us how to listen. Our own best hope as that by listening to the Word of God we too will find ourselves transformed in this life. We call it “conversion”. It is the focus of this season, and the whole purpose of our prayer, fasting, and sacrifices. This experience of transformation brings us healing and forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.
Finally like all those who have gone before us, Abraham and Moses included, the transformation will find us once and finally transfigured through death into the glory that is God’s gift and promise through Jesus Christ. What those apostles saw on that mountain was what lies in store for those transformed by listening to God’s Son. What they saw was what we may all be if we listen. They did not and could not understand until they saw and experienced what transformation promises. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which they witnessed and then understood by the power of the Holy Spirit would then be their own transfiguration if they would but listen.
There is or ought to be stillness in this season of Lent. These days should offer us time and desire to listen. To be truly fruitful and transformative, our observance of these forty days ought to provide time for listening. Whatever it is that we sacrifice and give up should provide some time for listening. Yet the noisy world in which we find ourselves makes no room for silence. Real listening is becoming a lost art. Double tasking, the constant noise of children’s games on iPads and phones, Televisions shrieking away in empty rooms, ear phones jammed into ears everywhere are all the evidence we need that no one is listening; at least no one is listening to anything that matters.
This is a season for quiet, and in the stillness we can listen: listen to the longing of our hearts for peace, forgiveness, and healing. We can listen for the voice of God in the silence of God’s presence. We can listen for the cry of the poor whose pleas for justice and hope are muffled by the blare of consumerism’s unending advertisements. We can listen to the Word of God that will lead us to the glory of a final transfiguration that will be our own resurrection from sin and sin’s consequences into mercy and the fullness of life.
There is still time in these Lenten days to obey the command spoken on that mountain. “Listen” God says. Listen, and when you do the promises made to Abraham will be ours.