Sacrifice of Isaac and Transfiguration is our preparation

02-25-2018HomiliesFr. Chad King

Our 1st reading and Gospel today are such important and impactful events in salvation history, hopefully you know these stories well. Today I want to try and reveal how these 2 important events are tests and a preparation for us in this season of Lent. So, let me jump right into it.

Our 1st reading and Gospel today are such important and impactful events in salvation history, hopefully you know these stories well. Today I want to try and reveal how these 2 important events are tests and a preparation for us in this season of Lent. So, let me jump right into it.

Hopefully you recall that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham- which means ‘father of many nations’ and declared to Abraham that even though he and his wife, Sarah, is of old age and barren, God will give him a son- and through your son you’re going to have a multitude of descendants, as many as the stars in the sky. Then, after almost 25 years of waiting, Abraham sighs a big sigh of relief because finally God gave him his son, Isaac. Therefore, our 1st reading must have been the ultimate heart-wrenching test for Abraham. God is asking to take his son, now a young man, and to sacrifice the same son who God himself promised would make him the father of multitude. So, the question is why is God giving this kind of test? Isn’t there another way God could have tested Abraham’s faithfulness besides sacrificing his son? The only way to really answer that question is to look at the Old Testament in the light of the New. In other words, if all you had was the Old Testament, it wouldn't really be clear why God would ask this of Abraham.

What God is doing through Abraham is preparing the world for the sacrifice of his only beloved son Jesus Christ, who he is going to send into the world to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world, so that all the families of the earth might be blessed through him. In other words, what God is demonstrating is he needs a man who trusts him so much that he will pre-enact the crucifixion 2000 years before it happens. For evidence, let’s look at the striking parallels from Genesis 22 to Chris. First, father Abraham offers his only beloved son as a sacrifice, which of course parallels the heavenly Father offering his only beloved son Jesus Christ. Second, Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice up Mount Moriah and is laid down upon the wood to become the sacrifice. Of course, we know that Jesus carries the wood of the cross up the mountain where he also laid upon it to become a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Thirdly, look at the effects, God says to Abraham, ‘because you've done this, all the nations of the world are going to be blessed through you because of what you were willing to do’. We know the sacrifice of the Christ upon the Cross brings about the conversion of many people recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. Fourth, when Isaac is saved from being sacrificed, God provides the substitute of a ram caught in a thicket, a thorn bush, by his horns. Many of the ancient church fathers saw that as a type of Christ too, because they saw Christ as the ram. The ram was a symbol for kings and kingship. So, Christ is like that, the royal king who wears a crown made out of thorns.  Just as the ram is caught by its horns in a thorn bush, so Christ wears a crown of thorns and he's going to be the substitute, he’s going to take Isaac's place, in a sense, so that he will lay down his life in sacrifice so that the world might be blessed. And if those weren’t amazing enough, there is one last striking fact. Genesis 22 makes clear that the place where Isaac is sacrificed is Mount Moriah. Later in the bible, in 2 Chronicles 3:1 says that King Solomon “began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” In other words, Abraham offers his beloved son Isaac on the very same mountain that Jesus, the beloved son of the father, is going to lay down his life for the sins of the world!

These amazing parallels and facts are given for our sake. We who can read and know both the Old and New Testaments can see that this has been God’s amazing plan of salvation from the very beginning. Therefore, the sacrifice of Isaac is preparation for us in our journey of faith. We might not always understand it, but if we, like Abraham, remain faithful and obedient to the faith, we too can be part of God’s amazing plan of salvation. As our 2nd reading says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how well he not also give us everything else along with him?”

The Transfiguration of Christ in our Gospel also reveals a kind of preparation of faith for us. Our Gospel states Jesus took Peter, James and John, the inner circle of disciples, up the mountain and is transfigured before their very eyes. You might be wondering why Jesus takes only those three apostles. St. Ephrem, the Syrian, writing in the 4th century, answers why God chose to perform this miraculous revelation to only Peter, James, and John. St. Ephrem writes, “Jesus took these apostles up to the mountain to show them the glory of his divinity… to prevent the apostles’ being scandalized at seeing him soon afterward enduring those human sufferings which he had freely accepted for our sake... He took them up onto the mountain in order to show them his kingship before they witnessed his passion, to let them see his mighty power before they watched his death, to reveal his glory to them before they beheld his humiliation”. Remember, it is only these three, inner circle of Apostles, that are with Jesus at the Agony in the Garden. What Ephrem is saying is that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain and gives them a foretaste of his glory and his divinity, in hopes that they will not doubt who Jesus is when the time comes for Jesus to enter into His agony upon the Cross.

There on the Mountain the three Apostles witness Jesus being transfigured but also see Moses and Elijah there conversing with Jesus. The reason Moses and Elijah are there is important to note. In Exodus 34 Moses goes up the mountain and says to God “I want to see your glory” and God tells him “you can’t see my face, no one can see my face and live. But I’ll put you in a cleft of the rock and I’ll pass by, and you can see the back of me and my shadow”. So Moses is only able to see the back of God, but not his face. A similar thing happens to Elijah in 1 Kings 19, Elijah goes up Mt. Sinai and into a cave, and Elijah is able to recognize the presence of God in a still small voice. But when Elijah comes out of the cave to encounter God, he wraps his face in his cloak, because he knows he can't look on the face of God and live. So, in other words, both Moses and Elijah are two figures in the Old Testament who had experiences of God's presence, but they couldn’t look at God's face, they couldn't see God face to face. But now in the Transfiguration, they are there and are able to talk with Christ, who has all of the glory of God, but who has also become man. In other words, Moses and Elijah, in a sense, have their longing from the Old Testament to see God's face answered in the incarnation, answered in the appearance of Jesus, because in Jesus, God now has a human face. Amazing, right?

Because Jesus has become man, my brothers and sisters, you and I were made for God, we were made to see God face to face. In fact, we were made to share in the same glory of God that the 3 Apostles did upon the Mountain. However, before we can share in the glory of the Resurrection, we, like Christ, have to first take on the sacrifice. We have to give of ourselves for the good of others before we can share in the glory of the Resurrection. And that, my brothers and sisters, is what this preparation of Lent is all about, so let us enter into this Lent not just doing the minimum but enter in with all that we are. For the more we share in the sacrifice of Christ, the more we can share in the glory of His resurrection.