Sunday, 1 March 2015

1/3/15 This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)

This week a little liturgy follows the Mass prayers closely to cover the notion of sacrifice.  It is a difficult topic even for adults!  I have included a link to "One Bread One Body" to help us reflect on this.  

Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18
God asks Abraham to kill his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  Just as he takes the knife to do this, God stops him and says that he has proved his loyalty by agreeing to do it.  Instead, Abraham finds a ram for the burnt offering.  God is pleased and says "I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and grains of sand on the seashore".

Psalm 115
I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living

Second Reading
Romans 8:31-34
St Paul asks: "With God on our side who can be against us?"  He says that God gave us the amazing gift of his son, so he will not refuse anything he can give us.  Jesus died and rose from the dead for us and stands at God's right hand.

Mark 9:2-10
Jesus went up a high mountain with James and John.  When they were there his clothes became a bright white and Elijah and Moses appeared next to him and spoke with him.  The apostles were frightened.  A voice from a cloud said "This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him."  Then suddenly everything was back to normal.  Jesus told them not to tell anyone about this until he had risen from the dead.  They were not sure what "rising from the dead" could mean.


As we move towards Easter, the readings concentrate increasingly on the Easter mysteries of sacrifice and resurrection.  As is often the case, the Old Testament reading about Abraham and Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross.  Abraham demonstrates his devotion to God by being willing to give up his only son.  We really feel for Abraham at this point and are relieved when God intervenes at the last moment.  However, for Christ there is no reprieve, even though he express his humanity with the words, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me.  Nevertheless let your will be done, not mine."  He is loyal and obedient as Abraham was but also fulfils the role destined for Isaac who was replaced by the ram.  As St Paul remarks, if God will do this for us, who can be against us?
The Gospel shows a privileged insight into the world beyond our usual experience.  This event is usually known as the "Transfiguration" and helps us, and the apostles, to place Jesus with the holy men revered in the Jewish tradition.  It is also a moment in the Gospel where we witness God the Father and Son together.  The apostles are puzzled at the thought of Jesus rising from the dead and confused by their strange experiences.  Sometimes, as Christians, we too are puzzled and confused.  We should note here that they "talk amongst themselves" to try to understand things.

Activity for Mass

Every week the priest says a a special prayer over the offerings.  This week's prayer is below:

May this sacrifice, O Lord, we pray, cleanse us of our faults and sanctify your faithful in body and mind for the celebration of the pascal festivities.  Through Christ our Lord.

Also, at the start of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priests says:

Pray, brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

and we reply:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

After the consecration the priest says:

Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honour is yours,
for ever and ever.

and we answer a resounding: Amen

sacrifice here refers to:

God giving his son to us
Christ giving himself to God
Christ giving himself to us
Us giving ourselves to God

The Mass is a memorial of the sacrifice on the cross and when we hear Mass we join with Christ in his sacrifice.  So when we offer bread and wine it represents us offering ourselves to God in unity with Christ.  These are all very difficult ideas to understand and no one, not even the Pope, could claim to understand completely!  However, we should try to improve our understanding by experiencing the Mass and studying it.

Read all these prayers again carefully and listen out for them at Mass today.  Draw some pictures or a diagram to represent these aspects of sacrifice.

Imagine what the Apostles were saying to each other when they were walking down the mountain after the Transfiguration.  Write down a few of  ideas or questions that you have:

Other activities and useful resources

Youtube clip - One Bread One Body

Teaching document form Bishops of England and Wales

Diocese of East Anglia page

I hope you have a good week!


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