In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 25, God takes us into the mountains to meet God on a new level.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 25, we move from the desert to high places. The ancient people would always go up to the mountains to find God. Today we travel with Abraham, when his relationship with God was still pretty new, up to the mountain to sacrifice his son. This is where God reveals that human sacrifice isn’t cool. Then we go with Jesus who is revealed to Peter, James and John, by the Father as having God’s authority. Naturally, they don’t understand what they see and hear, but that’s okay — it wasn’t time yet. It was enough that Peter realized that what he was witnessing was important and that it was an honor to be there. Paul reminds us that we have God on our side — a loving father who is willing to do anything for us, even give us his only Son.
Genesis 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18
“I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.”
I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
When I was a kid, our folk group used to sing a song, “If God is for Us, Who Can be Against Us?” I’ve never had good hearing, and thought they were saying, “If God’s in Florida, who can be against?” It made no sense to me. And for a long time, today’s first reading also made no sense to me. How could God mess with Abraham’s head like that? Kill your son. … No, don’t kill your son? But, then I got context.
Abraham came from a culture where killing your first born son and offering him to the gods was normal. (Although Isaac wasn’t his first born, Ishmael was, Isaac was the one who would carry on God’s covenant.) Abraham also was a pagan newly introduced to the one true God. It was expected. So God, working with what Abraham already understood to be expected of him, showed Abraham that the God he was now following was not like the others. This God loves all of his people, forbids human sacrifice and will offer us a replacement for our sin offering — his own Son. Abraham’s faithfulness and trust in God is rewarded with a promise that God will be willing to make the same sacrifice when the time comes.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that God keeps nothing from us — not even his own Son — but wants to give us all good things. We never have to be afraid because God is for us. God is on our team. He stands with us against sin and death.
Our Gospel takes us up to a mountain with Jesus, Peter, James and John. Jesus is shown to them dazzling white, and in the company of two Jewish heavy hitters: Moses and Elijah. The scene is meant to signify that Jesus, sparkling with God’s presence, is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets: Moses representing the law, and Elijah the prophets. Peter and the others did not know what to do with that. They couldn’t comprehend it. Then, God repeats the words from Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” God the Father is expressing Jesus’ perfect authority. Now the guys are really confused. Jesus tells them not to talk about it to anyone until after the resurrection (which they also don’t understand) because it won’t make sense until he has been raised from the dead. They couldn’t understand what it meant that Jesus was God until then.
Have you ever been on a mountain? If so, what was it like? Why do you think that people thought they would find God there?
Do I believe that God is really for me? What evidence in my life do I have that God is on my side?
Do I make any “sacrifices” that don’t actually serve God or anyone else, making me a martyr in my own mind? What would happen if I accepted my circumstances as a gift, as Peter did with the Transfiguration, even if I couldn’t understand what it meant?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
God told Abraham that he would bless him with descendants as numerous as “the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore,” things that can’t be counted. This week, count your blessings — put a jar on your dinner table and every night, everyone write the blessings that they received that day. Help each other remember if necessary. How many blessings did you receive? Do you think there might have been too many to count?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”