Annunciation with St Emidius, 1486, by Carlo Crivelli. Wikimedia Commons

God's Word on Sunday: We are challenged to trust in God

  • March 1, 2020

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

So much can hang on a simple yes or no response to a calling from God.

We are familiar with Mary’s positive response to the divine message given by the archangel Gabriel: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Our salvation resulted from that affirmation. But it didn’t begin there — we must go much further back in history to the call of Abraham, our father in faith. Seemingly without any sort of forewarning, God challenged Abraham to walk away from absolutely everything: home, kin, culture, gods, friends — all that was familiar and gave him a sense of belonging and security. He was also to strike out into the unknown, not even knowing his destination.

In exchange for this extraordinary act of trust and faith, God would give him countless descendants and make him the father of a great nation. God would bless and protect him and make his name great. But all this was to be taken on faith — God’s promise would be the only guarantee he would receive.

What form might a similar request take today? Perhaps God would ask us to renounce all bank accounts, savings, investments, insurance, credit cards and pensions — anything that would give us security. This would be followed by a command to leave our hometown and hit the road, living “off the grid,” trusting that God would provide for us.

That doesn’t sound appealing and the mere thought of it is scary. But Abraham was up to the challenge: he trusted in God. It wasn’t his theology that won God’s approval, for there wasn’t any. It was his positive response to God.

We needn’t take such drastic measures, for God has not asked us to do so. But we are challenged to trust in God more and less in our own assets, networks, talents and personal power. It would not hurt us to begin letting go of some things and walk in faith rather than controlling everything.

This applies not only to us as individuals, but to the Church. The loss of the Church’s influence and financial resources could be a blessing in disguise. We might just learn to trust God rather than our collective power and wealth. Each day God challenges us to trust. What is our response and how does it affect others?

Part of this trust involves receiving our redemption as a gift, relying on the power, mercy and grace of God, rather than our own efforts or questionable righteousness. This redemption is something God has intended from the beginning — it only became fully visible in Christ.

People have a hard time believing and trusting that God gives love and grace so freely. In that doubt is the beginning of all our attempts to play God and do it ourselves. One of the most difficult things we are called to leave behind is our sense of control.

Peter, James and John had great difficulty dealing with the revelation they witnessed on the mountaintop. Jesus allowed them to accompany Him to the summit to participate in something marvellous. The text describes what they saw — light emanating from the face of Jesus, dazzling white light from clothes and the presence of Moses and Elijah. But what did all this mean?

The presence of the two prophets indicates that Jesus is the last link in the chain that began so long ago. Clothing often indicated one’s inner spiritual state and, in this case, Jesus was the divine presence made visible. For a moment, the veil separating the world of God and the Spirit from our world of ignorance and materiality was parted.

At a loss for words, Peter wanted to build three shrines or shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. He wanted to hang on to the experience and establish a place where others could worship and venerate. This is the temptation of all religions — to domesticate the holy and the transcendent and control access.

God would have none of it. The terrifying voice from the cloud that overshadowed them affirmed Jesus as the beloved Son, pleasing to God, and all were urged to listen to Him.

Jesus was a teacher and guide, and expected to be followed and emulated, not merely worshipped. As Jesus Christ was God’s light and mercy in the world, so we must be, too.