Readings for today begin with a very strange and gruesome. When God calls Abraham and tells him that he will raise his offspring like the stars of heaven and that he will give them the land of Canaan, Abraham asks God: “How can this be?” God proposes a covenant between the two of them. Then, Abraham goes to prepare the ritual ceremony for the covenant. He brings a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he cut them in two and laid each half over against the other. This is a passage that raises so many questions in my mind. But when I learned its secret, I was filled with joy beyond words. It is a beautiful moment to realize the glory of God, who loves us unconditionally.
What we see here is a very common practice in the desert communities of the Middle East, especially in marriage covenants. They bring sacred animals that can be sacrificed. They cut them and let the blood ooze out between the pieces. This pool of blood is known as “the blood path”. The two parties must both walk through “the blood path” to symbolize a solemn agreement they have made. The greater party goes first followed by the lesser, and they both say to each other, may what was done to these animals be done to me if I do not keep this covenant. If we read carefully, now, what Abraham did, we can know many secrets.
“He brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him.”
Here Abraham is waiting after having slaughtered the animal. That is what we learn from the setting of the sun and the spread of darkness. Who was Abraham waiting for? He is waiting for the person to walk first to seal the covenant. Who is that person? It is God who is the greater party in this covenant. So it is God who must first walk through these in this covenant. But what comes are the eagles which symbolize the devil in the Holy Bible. The devil is the one who waits to destroy all consecration. Abraham drove them away, which means he did not make a covenant with the devil. So, he is a model for us in the life of faith. We also need vigilance always to make a covenant with God. We always need vigilance. Therefore St. Peter says: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith.” (1Pt 5:8)
Then why is God late? The reasons I find God is late are mainly two.
1. Practical ease. Since God comes in the form of fire and smoke, it is easy for Abraham to fully understand that God came if He came at night rather than during the day.
2. Trial of faith. It is also a test of faith. It must have been a night when Abraham had a vision and was told to look up at the sky and count the stars. If so, the sacrifice must have taken place the next morning. So waiting from dawn to dusk is a test of faith. Moreover, sleep is a symbol of death in the Bible. It shows that the trial of faith lasts until the end of every man’s life. Abraham cast out the devil and waited until evening showed the depth of his faith.
Now, some unexpected events are unfolding. “When the sun had gone down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”
Smoke and fire are the signs of divine presence. We find many examples in the scripture. That is, God, the first person to cross “the way of blood,” came in the form of smoke and fire and passed through the animals cut in half. But we don’t see Abraham crossing the blood path. Does this mean that the pact was not made? No. Instead of Abraham, God passes in the form of smoke and fire. It means God invokes upon himself a curse of death if Abraham breaks the covenant. How deep and unselfish is the love of God for us! Over time, the covenant made with Abraham came true when the Son of God, Jesus, was crucified for humanity who broke their covenant with God.
In fact, I do not know how to describe this love of God in words. It gives a spiritual joy to know that God shows so much selfless love from the very first pages of the Bible and that we are called into that love. The Christian life is not a concoction. Instead, it is an immersion in the love of God. Each of the sacraments pours into us this love. In fact, not knowing this love or not letting others know this love is not only the greatest loss in life but also the greatest misery of life. Because the characteristic of this love is that God takes the initiative to save man freely through Christ.
We met that Christ last Sunday in the desert. Christ, who was tempted in every way like us, showed us how to overcome those temptations. Today’s Gospel through His Transfiguration reveals the fullness of the salvation He has brought to us. It shows us the beauty of the beatific vision that man will eventually reach. The joy the disciples felt when they witnessed it shows us how enjoyable it was. So our journey should always be with this goal in mind.
That is why in the second reading, St Paul the Apostle says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. He continues: “ there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their God, and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things.”
It is true. Often we are proud of what is shameful and think only of the earthly like Peter in today’s Gospel. Before the Transfiguration, we see Peter as a man professing a faith that has never been revealed to anyone before. Peter proclaims to the question of Jesus whom do you think that I am that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. There, we see that Jesus praises Peter, saying that neither the flesh nor the blood revealed to you but the heavenly Father. But the same Peter interrupts when he hears that Jesus must suffer, die and resurrect. But Jesus rebukes him. It is in this context Jesus transfigures and reveals to his disciples the glory of the resurrection that will come at the end of the tribulation. But even there, Peter shows the instability of his faith. Peter is still dreaming of an earthly Messiah, and without understanding Christ, he wants to build three tents. It is a lesson for us. Our focus is often on building many earthly tents without growing in faith and knowledge of Jesus. Peter realized his mistake and was filled with the Holy Spirit, later repeated in his epistle to grow in the knowledge of Christ. (2 Peter 1: 3). Even John the Apostle, who was with him, said: “To know the only true God and to Jesus Christ whom you have sent is eternal life.” (John 17: 3)
Yes .. Worship is possible only when we know Him. So we need to reflect on how much importance do we give to know Him? The simplest solution is to participate in the holy mass. Look at the structure of the Holy Mass: In the first part, we try to know Christ through sacred scripture Followed by Worship and glorification. To know that, it is enough to participate attentively in the eucharistic prayer.
Dear ones, a transfiguration of Tabor takes place on every altar. Natural wheat bread turns into the glorified body of Christ is to transform our mortal bodies into the body of Christ. That is what Jesus taught when he spoke about the Eucharist. “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54). So, “our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies: Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but possess the hope of resurrection. (CCC 1000)
So let us not miss the medicine of the holy eucharist prepared by God Himself for us to enter into eternal life. May God bless each of us, grow in knowing and loving God more and share in His glory.