This is what most of us do not know – The Reward For Sacrifice Is Transformation
The late Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp has a beautiful and nice way he employed in explaining and navigating around the event of the Transfiguration of our lord.
There is a mysterious story in 2Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram, and Elisha, the man of God, is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites.
At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy, but when he learns the truth, he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are surrounded and fears for his master’s safety.
He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside was covered with advancing enemy troops? So, Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant’s eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23).
This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. The Church introduces this reading of Jesus’ transfiguration during Lent, so that the transfiguration of Jesus would transform us.
The Lenten disciplines and practices if performed with the spirit of Jesus should be able to transform us. This transformation like holiness is a gradual process, it does not happen overnight. However, we need to pray in the spirit of Elisha so that our spiritual eyes be opened to understand the full import of this transfiguration event during this period.
I wish to start this homily with another very important story about an elderly priest who shared his experience with me that touched me in a very special way. It was about 40 years ago in a certain parish in a remote village where he was finding it difficult to survive with regard to his basic needs.
The people in that parish were very poor but they were doing their best to sustain their priest. After his lunch one Christmas day, the priest decided to take a stroll round the village in order to observe how the people celebrate the Christmas. As he was strolling round, he was attracted by sound of crying and weeping from a small hut in front of him. He went in to know what the problem was. They were three kids with their poor widowed mother.
They were crying because they had nothing to eat on a Christmas day. Imagine the pains of these kids who were being starved on such a day when their fellow kids elsewhere had sumptuous meal with drinks. Touched by their predicament, the priest went home immediately and brought along with him the only bag of rice left in his store. He gave the bag of rice to the family with some affordable money for condiments. Considering the condition of his parish, it was really a great sacrifice on the part of the priest but he was happy to have eased the pains of such a wretched family.
According to the priest, he never came in contact with that family again as he was transferred the following month for an urgent assignment. After thirty years, he was suprised with the visit of one of the children of that widow he helped. Having been enormously blessed by God, this young man went in search of that priest that put smiles on their faces many years back. The sacrifice of the priest alleviated their pains at that moment which left a deep impact on him.
When he later found the priest, he was overjoyed and he expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the priest. From then till date, he has been sending one trailer bag of rice to the priest every December for the less privileged, and also a huge sum of money to the priest on monthly basis for his upkeep. What a great show of gratitude!
The most appreciated gifts are not those that are ‘Very Expensive’, but those that involves ‘Sacrifice’. A gift is a sacrifice when it involves the greatest value of the giver. The receiver of a sacrifice is highly valued by the giver either to be equal to the sacrifice being made or more than it. That is the reason why it is normally said: “Gift is given, but sacrifice is made”. The verb “to make” involves the person more than the verb “to give”.
Thus, when a gift reaches the height of a sacrifice, it is no longer given, but it is made. The receiver of a sacrifice always feel highly rated by the giver and is always disposed to reward the giver accordingly. When the receiver is a Superior like God, then the reward of the sacrifice would be enormous. Great Biblical heroes understood what it means to offer sacrifice to God. They were greatly rewarded by God in their readiness to give everything to God. The readings of this Second Sunday of Lent present us with some of these heroes of faith who offered sacrifice to God and were rewarded accordingl
From the first reading from the Book of Genesis, God tested Abraham by demanding a great sacrifice, the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael, the child from the slave girl, Hagar, and then Isaac, the child of God’s promise from Sarah. The Lord had told Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away and to concentrate on Isaac, because it is through Isaac that Abraham’s descendant would be great.
God put Abraham to the test about ten years or more after Ishmael’s exile when Isaac was about 13 years old. The narrative begins by revealing that Abraham was being tested. It was God’s plan that Abraham should experience the test of a covenant ordeal. A covenant ordeal is a testing of the obedience of faith of a person in the special relationship of a covenant union with God.
In ancient times, human sacrifice was a widespread practice. It was practiced by the Moabites, who in desperate situation, would sacrifice the first born to their god, Chemosh (2 Kings 3:26-27). The Ammonites were offering their children to Molech (Leviticus 18:21). The valley of Gehenna was cursed because it was the place where the children had been slain (2 Kings 23:10).
Thus, in a world where this practice was considered normal, it was understandable why God would demand such from Abraham. Abraham on the other hand, did not see it as abnormal. Most importantly, Abraham had always blindly believed in the Lord. He left his homeland, renounced the security of his house and the protection which came from the family and the tribe to which he belonged, cut the connection with the past, sure that God would fulfil his promise, would give him a land, a blessing and above all, numerous descendants.
Even at this moment when it seemed to him that God contradicted himself, Abraham unwaveringly maintained his faith. In obedience, Abraham took his son, Isaac, who carried the wood for his sacrifice. Innocently, Isaac inquired from his father about the lamb of sacrifice.
In trying to conceal the truth from his son, Abraham made a prophecy that would later become fulfilled: “God Himself will provide the Lamb for the sacrifice ” (Genesis 22:8). On the Mount of Moriah where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, he built an altar, arranged the wood, tied his son as a sacrificial lamb, and took knife to slaughter him. Isaac did not resist or flee from his aged father when he realised that he was to be sacrificed.
At that instant, God intervened and provided a sacrificial lamb as Abraham has foretold. Then comes the reward: He is promised many offspring, victory in all endeavors, and that he will be a blessing. Singing……”Abraham’s blessings are mine (2x). I am blessed in the morning, I am blessed in the evening. Abraham’s blessings are mine.” But we have to do what Abraham did in order that the blessings may be ours.
LESSONS TO NOTE.
- Do you know that God can transform you? God transforming you does not make you special or better than others, after all everyone could be transformed. Find out then how God can transform you and the purpose of such transformation.
- Listen, Moses and Elijah appearing and discussing with Jesus means Jesus Has Taken Over From Them. He is now in-charge even of my life, your life and the life of every person. He is not like many Nigerian Politicians and Christian Leaders, who buy their way to offices just to work for their selfish interests. Nigerians clamour for change but how can she change where almost all the citizens connive with corrupt and godless politicians to steal? How do we do our own Handover?
- Marks says went up to the mountain to pray and his transformation took place while he was praying. Child of God do not forget the importance of prayer in your life. But be informed that God answers the prayer of the Just Man. Who is a Just Person? To avoid confusion, Jesus remains the only model as far as being just is concerned.
- As Moses and Elijah handed over the Law and the prophets to Jesus, may you through prayers handover your CHALLENGES, PROBLEMS, DIFFICULTIES, FAMILY AND BUSINESS TO GOD HAT HE MAY TRANSFORM THEM TO GOD. Child of God as you pray, may you never get tired of matching your prayers with Sacrifice and Good Actions.
- Like the disciples, always remember to show a sense of Awe at the presence of God. While lying down in fear, Jesus touched the disciples, asked them to GET UP and not be afraid because they were in good hands. I pray for you today child of God, may God touch you in your tears, sorrows, fears, confusion, frustration and raise you up since you are in good Hands in the mighty name of Jesus Amen!!!
Finally, child of God let us dispose ourselves to offer sacrifices when the need arises. Obedience without Sacrifice has no atom of Reward. Blessings to you and your family+. Remember to participate actively in this period of 40days journey with Christ. “A CHRISTIAN IS NOT AN ORDINARY PERSON AND THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN IS A LIFE OF WARFARE”. Happy Sunday to you.
Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18. Ps 116:10, 15-19. Romans 8:31b-34. Mark 9:2-10
The Reward For Sacrifice Is Transformation
FR. EMMANUEL UZOH(NWACHINAEMERE)
Peace be with you