God Will Provide

Every second Sunday of Lent, the gospel reading tells the story of the Lord’s Transfiguration. This event happens six days after that deciding moment in Caesarea Philippi when Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and in turn, Jesus proclaims Peter as the “Rock” on which he will build his Church. Having elicited the first explicit profession of faith in him as the Christ, Jesus tells his disciples for the first time of his passion and death. Later, on two other occasions, he would reiterate the same prediction of the tragic fate awaiting him in Jerusalem. From here on, he makes it clear to his disciples that he is not only the glorious Messiah (preacher, miracle-worker, exorcist); he is also the Suffering Servant, foretold in the scriptures.

It is in this context that Jesus invites Peter, James and John to the mountain of Tabor, where he is transfigured before them. Mark’s account is terse, but the other evangelists provide further details. His face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as light. (Matthew) Elijah and Moses appear, conversing with Jesus about the “exodus” (death, resurrection and ascension) he is going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke) Then, a cloud overshadows the disciples from which they hear a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Knowing that his passion and death will terribly shake the faith of his disciples, Jesus braces them for the approaching scandal by unveiling his divine identity and mission. In Jerusalem they will witness his utter helplessness in the hands of the Jews and the Romans. The vision on Mount Tabor is meant to remind them that behind the vulnerability and mortality of the man Jesus is the power and glory of the Son of God.

The mountain is often associated with divine experience. It is the place where one meets God and hears his call, as Moses experienced on Mt. Sinai. It is also the place where one seeks God for help, as did Elijah in his darkest hour on Mt. Horeb. Jesus himself sought his Father on the hill of Gethsemane when he was about to face his impending death.

Like the apostles, let us climb the mountain of God and find the light, regain the courage and be given the strength to follow Jesus faithfully right up to Calvary. Where is this mountain? More than a place, the holy mountain is the time and space we give to God in prayer.

Lent is a special season for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us find more time for prayer, especially as we go through the many uncertainties of our present world (escalating wars, unrestrained global warming, widespread populism, incessant attempts for cha-cha…) as well as of our personal life. More than ever we feel the need for God and prayer.

Prayer is not only talking to God and pouring out all our soul to him. More importantly prayer is listening to God. On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father tells the apostles, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

True, it is hard to hear God. At times, we even feel as if God does not respond and may even be asleep. However, the truth is that it is we who do not listen.

The story is told of an old man who wanted to test his wife’s hearing. Standing behind her at some distance, he shouted, “Honey, can you hear me?” Receiving no answer, he moved closer and asked again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still hearing no response, he went straight behind her and whispered, “Honey can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes!”

We need to listen to God, but we should also be ready to take his answer. There will be times when what we hear from God can be disturbing and intimidating. In the first reading, Abraham hears God telling him to take his only son, born in his old age, and offer him in sacrifice on a mountain he will point out. We can never fathom out the doubts and misgivings that Abraham must have entertained. God seems to contradict not only his nature, but also his personal promise to him of a great posterity. Suddenly he finds himself in utter darkness within the clarity of God’s word.

And it does not help either that little Isaac asks, “Father, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” The innocent words of the precocious child must have stung his heart beyond description. All he could say is, “My son, God will provide.”

It is in this curt answer that we get a glimpse of Abraham’s faith – his absolute faith in God. Rising above his doubts and utter lack of understanding, he totally surrenders himself and his son to God. In the end, God does provide. Not only with a substitute animal-victim for the sacrifice, but with the confirmation of his promise of a multitude of descendants so greatly blessed that from it will come the long awaited hope of humankind.

Indeed, there will be times when we too are in the dark and cannot make sense of God’s word. In such times God asks us to surrender ourselves completely to him, like Abraham, and to believe that God will provide.

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