We must place our trust in God

  • February 14, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent (Year A) Feb. 17 (Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9)

Most people have a great reluctance, even fear, of being vulnerable. We like to control events and our environment. We insulate ourselves with power, wealth and relationships and a host of other things to give us the illusion of security.

Abraham has been asked by God to give all of these things up: homeland, relationships, culture and a supportive environment. He is to place his trust in God and step out into the unknown where he will have to rely completely on God. The blessing and cursing language was an ancient way of saying that God would be his patron and protector. We should not think of God cursing anyone’s enemies — God is not our hired enforcer. In exchange for this trust, God will grant Abraham a revered name and many descendents — the only form of immortality known to the people of that time. Not only that, he will be the source of blessing for all the peoples of the Earth. But all of this hinges on his ability to trust.

As we follow Abraham on his journeys, it will be apparent that he is far from being a saint or perfect. He is rather devious and some of his actions — such as his abandonment of Sarah when they entered Egypt — leave us cold. But his faith, which is more properly translated as absolute trust in God and God’s promises, never wavered. He went out from all that was familiar and secure as God commanded and he did not know where he was going. But he knew God was with him and that was enough. Things are not always clear for us either and it can seem that we are lost in the wilderness. Faith — trust in God — is spiritual radar that will guide us onward and home. And it might have an impact on future generations.

The author of Second Timothy seems to confirm that God had plans for us before the world even began. First on the list is salvation itself, followed by our own call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We didn’t earn any of this, for salvation is not a prize or a reward but a gift. Everything that we do will be through the power of God, for it is God’s show and not ours. But we have to accept that gift and allow ourselves to be led by it. The fact that Jesus abolished death and grants us immortality should set us free from the self-preserving fear that governs our lives. This grants us the freedom to love and to serve without being overwhelmed by the usual human feeling of vulnerability.

Those apostles accompanying Jesus to the mountaintop were perplexed by what they had just seen. Peter’s first impulse was to build some sort of shrine on the spot — after all, something holy had occurred there. The story might have ended there. But the fact that Jesus was seen conversing with Moses and Elijah tells us a lot. Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses and the definitive teacher and interpreter of the Law for Israel. As for Elijah, he was that miracle-working prophet who was taken up to God in a fiery chariot. There was a firm belief that he would return in the Last Days before the visitation of God to prepare a way for the Messiah. Jesus is indeed both of them but much more, for the voice affirms that this is the Beloved Son.

It is after this incident that Jesus will begin talking about His impending crucifixion, but His followers do not understand. The voice that commands us to “listen to Him” should be heeded, for it is in Matthew’s Gospel that the most majestic and moving form of the Sermon on the Mount is found. Do we listen to this — with the heart? This is also the Gospel that lays great emphasis on forgiveness as well as serving the needs of others. Do we listen to this? Too often we listen intently to things that Jesus never said and ignore those teachings that He preached emphatically. How we deal with the countless human encounters and situations on the road to Golgotha are just as important as the cross itself.