Today’s readings are tailor made for people facing a crisis, be it personal, financial or family. At least that’s what we said in our User’s Guide to Sunday:
Today’s readings describe the direct and startling way God sees us through and prepares us for the times of crisis in our lives.
1. First Reading. From Abraham and Isaac, we learn that crises sometimes come from God. He strikes at what’s most sacred to us because he wants to be the most sacred thing in our lives. We tend to put other values in the place that God should have. Very often, they are good things: family, friends, our reputation, our health, our comfort. But God wants us to give up whatever we have put in his place. This is always a painful process. God can seem to ask too much, as when he asks Abraham to sacrifice the very thing he considers fundamental to God’s promise: his Son.
But God asks for radical trust. And there are moments of crisis when he asks more directly than at others. If God asked of you what he asked of Abraham — to sacrifice something that you consider most central to your identity, even to your religious identity — what would you do?
What’s your Isaac?
2. The second reading reminds us that God has himself borne the sufferings he asks of us. God did what Abraham was willing to do but was spared from doing: He sacrificed his only Son. That crisis is in the past, and it has left a well of grace we can go to in our own times of trial. Now, whatever we lose in life, we always have Christ. And that’s more than enough: “If God is for us, who can be against us? … It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus … is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”
3. In the Gospel, Christ intercedes in the life of the apostles to prepare them for the crisis moment.
He again takes the direct approach, taking Peter, James and John up a high mountain and revealing his glory to them. They will soon face the horror of the cross. They will see the “Son of the Living God” become sin for their sake and die a shameful death. Satan will play out the advice “strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.”
To prepare for that frightening day, Christ shows them his true glory by his transfigured appearance and receives confirmation from the Father’s voice . He gives them all they need to stay faithful in the tough times.
In moments of crisis, we can look back at the memories of those times of closeness to Christ when we saw and felt his greatness.
When things are tough financially, we can remember the years of plenty. When events in politics, in our personal lives, or in the Church shake us, we also remember better days, when we saw the power of our principles and felt the rightness of our decision to stay by Christ’s side.
The Peter-on-Mount-Tabor moments can help you when we’re tempted to be Peter rejecting the cross.
When that temptation came, recall Christ’s words:
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Take heart in your crisis: God is the protagonist of every story, not you. That can be disconcerting, but he’ll be by your side when it’s all over.