2nd Sunday of Lent. February 25, 2018.
Gen 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
Why God tests our hearts.
Abraham had shown his love for God in so many ways. He had abandoned the comfort of his rich and fertile land so as to travel as a pilgrim to a land that God promised him. He had waited for over a hundred years for the birth of Isaac, the child of promise. Why then does God put him to the test? Hasn’t he given enough proofs of his faithful love for God?
We should also why God puts His loved ones to the test. These divine tests are to help us cultivate and manifest hearts worthy of God’s children – truly devoted hearts. Abraham manifested his own devoted heart by his readiness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
Abraham showed the qualities of a truly devoted heart: a heart that gave all, always, and for God’s sake. He was willing to give all, “Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.” He was willing to give always, letting go of his only son just as he was willing to let go of his land and property. He gave for God’s sake and not for what he would get from God, “There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”
God responds to Abraham’s devotedness by offering him divine consolations that cannot be matched by earthly gains, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants countless as the stars of the sky and the sands on the seashore.” When we slowly cultivate and manifest truly devoted hearts through the trials and tests that God ordains in our lives, we also dispose ourselves to experience the deeper consolation of God that persons or created things cannot give.
But how can we begin to cultivate this devoted hearts through the tests and trials of this life? How can we come to the point where we hold nothing back from God, surrender all things to God always and do so for His own sake and not for our own selfish needs?
The way to a devoted heart is to grasp God’s own devoted love for each and every one of us. We can only hope to be devoted to God when we live with the conviction that indeed God is devoted to us i.e. He gives us all, always, and for our own eternal good. God is indeed devoted to us!
In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul consoles the persecuted Christians in Rome by reminding them of God’s devoted love for them in Jesus Christ, “He who did not spare His own son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” In God’s devoted love, He gave us all in giving us His own Son; He never ceases to offer us His Son Jesus Christ, and He does so not for what He can get from us but out of His devoted love for us. In Jesus Christ, we find embodied God’s own devoted love for us as well as the spiritual consolations that are ours when we too show our devoted hearts in times of testing and trials.
St. Peter in the moment of the Transfiguration in today’s Gospel is moved by love to serve Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” We all know that Peter at this point lacks that devoted heart. He who showed such enthusiasm and generosity before the Transfigured Christ would repeat later before a mere maid during the Passion of Christ, “I never knew Him (Jesus).” The Father responds to Peter’s impetuousness by asking him to first see in Jesus Christ God’s own devoted love for us and the means to respond to God with devoted hearts, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.” We cannot hope to be truly devoted to God apart from our communion with Christ and our dependence on His love and grace.
Jesus, the devoted Son of the Father, gave all, always and for the sake of the Father. His momentary visible glory during the Transfiguration is a foretaste of that divine consolation that we experience when devoted hearts are formed in the crucible of the trials of life. The transfigured Christ offers us a participation in His own devoted heart as well as the divine consolations that come from living as God’s devoted children even in our trials and difficulties, “To those who accepted Him He gave power to become children of God.”(Jn 1:12)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we neither understand nor accept the sufferings, trials, and difficulties that come our way in this life. It is not enough to say that God is testing us without grasping that these tests are the way that God trains our hearts in devotedness. They are trials that also dispose us to receive the deep and enduring consolations that created things cannot give us in this world.
There are so many personal and communal trials and difficulties today that it is so easy for us to feel as if God is unable to help us or He doesn’t just care. We can even begin to question our love for God. It is also so easy for us to settle for earthly consolations that never satisfy us. It may be riches, pleasures, achievements, relationships, pastimes, etc. We are futilely trying to numb the pains of life.
Rather than questioning God’s love for us or trying to numb the pains of life, maybe we need to ask how God is inviting us to become more devoted in these moments of testing. What are we holding back from God at this moment? What are we unwilling to surrender to God? How is our relationship with God being determined primarily by our condition in life? How are we seeking to love for God’s sake and not for our own sake? Questions like these in trying moments help us to mature in our devotedness to Christ.
No matter how close we are to God, God will never cease testing His loved ones. He tested His own Mother Mary too several times. When He was found in the temple, He asked His Mother Mary, “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” When Mary told Him about the wine running out at the wedding of Cana, He asked, “How does this concern of yours concern me. My hour has not yet come.” All these were tests aimed at Mary manifesting her devotion to Him. Mama Mary continued to respond, offering all of herself, always and in different situations of her life, and doing so purely for the sake of God alone.
Our Eucharist is an encounter with Jesus, our ever devoted eternal High Priest, “who is at the right hand of God to intercede for us.” He will never cease to test our hearts, making them like His own devoted heart, and making them able to receive the Father’s consolations in this world of trials. All that we need to do is to respond to His undying devotion to us by showing Him our own devoted hearts, hearts ready to give all, always, and for God’s own sake alone.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!