In the old city of Jerusalem, the golden Dome of the Rock dominates the ancient skyline. The gold-encrusted dome covers a Muslim mosque and a site that is sacred, not only
to believers of Islam, but to Christians and Jewish people as well. Beneath the floor of the sanctuary is a large rock.
Archeologists and biblical scholars believe this is the Mount, or Moriah, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, which we heard about in today’s first reading.
Not far from there is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the rock of Calvary, where God sacrificed his only Son for our sins. Moriah and Calvary are joined together as unique examples of sacrificial love.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul posed the question to the Romans, If God is for us, who can be against us? Abraham must have wondered whether God was for him or against him when he was instructed to take his son and go to the land of Moriah to offer sacrifice. Becoming a father was the answer to prayers that Abraham had offered for more than 80 years. God heard Abraham’s prayers and gave him a son when he was almost 100 years old. Now that same God was asking the gift be returned. Abraham is rightly called our father in faith because he does not doubt, nor does he question. He faithfully sets out to do the Father’s will, no matter how much it will cost him.
Pleased with Abraham’s display of faith, God sends an angel to stop the sacrifice, and Abraham is forever blessed for his faithfulness. Stories such as those in the Old Testament are key to a better understanding of the events that would later unfold in the New Testament. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on Moriah is unmistakably connected to God the Father’s willingness to sacrifice his only Son, for our salvation, at Calvary.
That sacrifice was foretold by Jesus three times before it actually came about. The first time he does so in the Gospel of Saint Mark occurs shortly before this passage about the Transfiguration. Though Jesus spoke of death, he also promised that he would rise on the third day, but the resurrection meant nothing to his disciples at the time. They knew only that their master was going to die and they could not do anything to stop it. The Transfiguration, in effect, is about the deeper meaning of the life and death of Jesus. It was to bring about new life.
At the Transfiguration, the Apostles are privileged to receive a glimpse of how Jesus will appear in resurrected glory. Although they are amazed and terrified at the same time, the presence of Moses, the patriarch, and Elijah, the great prophet, assures them that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. God speaks from the heavens just as he did during the baptism of Jesus. He tells them, This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. The Apostles may still not fully understand who Jesus is or what he is about, but there is no doubt that he is God’s son. Their faith is strengthened and the long way of the cross, the journey to Jerusalem, continues.
As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, we seek transformation – conversion. The Apostles’ perspectives on their life and mission changed completely during their time atop Mount Tabor. We pray that our life and sense of mission may be strengthened by our Lenten observance.