The Second Sunday of Lent

Man proposes but God disposes

Reading ( Gen 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18 ) : Abraham offered Isaac as sacrifice
Second Reading : ( Rom 8:31-34 ):God did not withhold His own Son
Gospel : ( Mk 9:2-10 ) : The transfiguration
Chinese Classics
- “Only when you are well educated by your ripe old age do you realize that success comes not just from one's own effort. 30% comes from humans, 70% from above.” (1).
-“The sons of good doctors often die of disease; sons of witches often die by the hand of evil spirits. Sages of old understood that they must have a positive, sincere manner, and great virtue, to converge with the heavenly heart.” (2)

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” ( Mk 9:7 )

This is an excerpt from today's gospel about the Transfiguration. The voice from above is similar to that heard soon after the baptism of Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” ( Mk 1:11 )

When Jesus was transfigured, only three of his most trusted disciples, Peter, James and John, were present. These three also later witnessed Jesus' distress when he prayed in the Garden of Olives, and could offer him no help. Yes, Jesus who was the beloved of God, who was gloriously transfigured, was also the Jesus who was distressed and helpless. The God whose joyful voice from above exulted, “You are my Son, the Beloved”, was the same God who kept silent when the beloved Son cried out desperately for help.

When the three disciples were old and recalled these memories, what were their feelings? When Jesus was transfigured, Elijah and Moses also appeared. The former was a prophet, the latter God's messenger who promulgated the laws of the Old Testament. The two appeared together with Jesus to witness that he was the one about whom they earlier had prophesized, the Messiah whom they and their people had hoped for so longingly. But this long-awaited Messiah would soon be abandoned, even worse, abandoned by his own people. What did those two holy men of old, Moses and Elijah, think when they saw that?

This story has a very interesting sub-plot. When, after the transfiguration, they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus warned the disciples: “As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them “to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” ( Mk 9:9 ) Because had it been revealed, the crowd might have looked upon Jesus as a glorious leader of earthly power, and forget the true gospel, the good news that Jesus wanted to bring. Later Mark also added, “they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this 'rising from the dead' could mean” ( Mk 9:10).

In fact, before Jesus rose from the dead, they could not have understood what was meant by “rising from the dead”. Only heavenly beings or someone who had experienced something akin to death and rising, would be able to comprehend it. In this world we can only live in faith, trusting and relying on God.

In today's fragmented world, we easily can become discouraged, because there is so much that is imperfect. The world, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong's 1997 political turnover, the Church, family, friends, career, even our finite bodies... Is there anything that can make us fully satisfied and happy?

But if we trust in God, we can have the same experience as Paul who said, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? ” ( Rom 8:31-32 ) Yes, with God, we need not be afraid.

But where is this God? Is God often not as silent as when Jesus prayed in the Garden? When our need is the greatest, does it not seem sometimes that God is completely hidden from us?

We cannot completely grasp or fathom God. God only allows us to discover Himself gradually. Paul says that only in the future will we be able to see clearly; meanwhile we can see all heavenly things only as through a mirror. The One whom we call “God,” or when we speak of “faith and trust in God” - we cannot fully grasp any of this yet.

A Chinese idiom says, “Only when you are well-educated by your ripe old age do you realize success comes not just from one’s own effort. 30% comes from human effort, 70% from above. (1)” In fact, our sages realized this. It was their conclusion from their own experience of the innumerable ups and downs of life.

Fang Xiaoru of the Ming Dynasty in his Essay of Deep Contemplation wrote, “Sons of good doctors often die of disease; sons of witches often die by the hand of evil spirits.” This is a fact of life about which we can do nothing. Sometimes we succeed in helping others but fail to help ourselves or the people most dear to us. Thus, Fang Xiaoru continued, “Sages of old understood that changes in the future were not something humans could prepare for with wise consideration, nor control with witchery. They dared not interfere with conspiracy or trickery. All they could do was to live in a positive and sincere manner, contributing their greatest virtue so as to converge with the heavenly heart.” (2) Wise consideration, strategic plans, witchery, cleverness, efficiency - we cannot depend on any of these completely. No matter how clever or efficient we are, we will discover deeds we should not or cannot do, or actions we have done in vain. In times like these, we can only strive to the best of our ability, practice heroic virtue so as to please God. Only this is the right way, the sure, safest and lasting way, to fulfil our call to fullness of life.

We hope those preparing for baptism will come to recognize that the God in whom they profess belief is that kind of a wise God upon whom we must rely and look upon as merciful Father throughout life's journey. A day will come when we feel we have tried our best, and at that time God Himself will come and complete all that is lacking.