We are not always sure how to respond to God’s grace when we experience it. This Sunday, March 17, we see that whether we respond with fear, enthusiasm, or trying hard but getting it wrong, God makes things happen through us.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Today’s first reading is my favorite part of the backstory on why Jesus would die for our sins. God made a covenant with Abram (who later becomes Abraham) using the typical form for people of the time. An agreement would be arranged between two people or clans, terms would be set, and then animals would be cut up. Each representative of the clan would pass between the cut-up animals to signify that, if they break the covenant, what happened to the animals should happen to them. Notice that in our story today, only one party passes through the animals—God. God makes the covenant with Abram (who represents us) that he will be our God and we will be God’s people and follow his laws. By being the only one to pass through it, God takes all the consequences of the covenant broken upon himself. If we break it—and we did—he would be the one to die to bring the covenant to completion. In the person of Jesus, God did complete the covenant.
In the Gospel, Peter, James, and John go with Jesus to the mountaintop, where Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah—the representatives of the Law and the Prophets. They are all glowing—Jesus’ divinity is showing. Peter doesn’t understand what he’s witnessing, but is amazed and realizes that whatever is happening, it’s an honor for him to be there. He feels like he should do something, so offers to build tents for them which they do not need. Peter, James, and John experience awe, fear, and confusion in their encounter with God’s grace. That experience wasn’t meant to make them “do” anything at the time—just to be witnesses. This experience was intended to be confusing for now—they wouldn’t be able to understand it until Jesus died and rose again. It would finally have real meaning for them when Jesus completed his mission and fulfilled the covenant that God made with Abram.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
You can read this Sunday’s readings here:
Break Open the Word with Your Family
Peter, James, and John didn’t know what to do when they saw Jesus dazzling white on the mountain. What do you think you would have felt or done if you were there?
Did you ever have an experience that you didn’t understand while you were going through it, but made sense when it was over? Did you ever have an experience that didn’t seem remarkable at the time, but prepared you for something bigger, later on?
Share a time when you felt in awe of God’s grace. How were you called to respond to that experience—to be a witness, to move you to action, to prepare you for something else, to simply experience the gift of awe?
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.”