An Offer You Can Refuse
Second Sunday in Lent, Feb. 24, 2013 (2LentC)
By Fr. John Foley, S. J.
Podcast of the Sunday Readings
Sunday Bible Study Questions
Lecturas y Comentarios
New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
The readings this Sunday will highlight God’s covenant with human beings, offered not once but often, and hardly ever heeded.
The great covenant-offer fits into just eleven words. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” God promises to love us greatly and in return we promise to love God above all things. Even our first parents and God had this relationship in the Garden of Eden, but God watched with anguish as their free will, the gift he had given them, suddenly rejected his love.
The First Reading shows him toiling to re-establish the covenant much later in history, after many such refusals. He singles out a paltry old nomadic man named Abram and says to him,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
An impossible promise. What is Abram’s reaction?
Abram put his faith in the Lord.
God credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
This last word, righteousness, means something like “holiness,” or, “to be the person you ought to be when you are with God.” God is crediting Abram with fulfilling the covenant: receiving the offered love (“I will be your God”) and in return putting his faith in the Lord (“and you will be my people”). He was signing the agreement, so to speak.
Then an ancient sacrificial cult took place. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram. A deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him. Fire appeared among animals that Abram had slain. God spoke, promising a homeland, the “promised land,” to Abram and his descendants. This symbolized God’s half of the covenant.
The other half was up to Abram and his wife Sara. After a very long time they had a son in their extreme old age (Genesis 18: 10ff), and the son’s descendents ran in and out of the covenant. As time went by the agreement was forgotten and ignored.
So, when the time was right, God thought up a brilliant solution. Instead of speaking from on high, or through prophets, he would himself take shape on earth as Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ.
In the first place, Jesus was the very love God had offered for so many centuries. But he was also the people’s loving response, since he was completely a human being. As a human he could say to the Father with complete fidelity, “You are our God, and we are your people, unto death.” As God he could completely accept and trust the covenant.
Think of it. As the God/man Jesus was able to fulfill both halves of the covenant.
There is another covenant ceremony in Sunday’s Gospel. It has a lot in common with the one Abram had gone through. Jesus is transfigured, his clothes dazzling as fire—a counterpart to the fire in the First Reading. Just as with Abram, terrifying darkness closes in. Within the darkness, God’s voice repeats the covenant. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
These words are addressed to us as well. The covenant is finally fulfilled, but we have to opt into it. We have let ourselves be joined to Jesus in his fidelity to God. In Baptism we begin this.
We continue it in each Mass we attend, each communion we receive. We say “Amen” to it.
Try it this Sunday.