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FAITH SHARINGREFLECTIONRCIA
SOURCE: Larry Broding at Word-Sunday.com.
Directions: On this page you will find questions on the Sunday Readings that can be used in RCIA or Faith Sharing groups. Clicking on the PDF icons will give participants additional commentary and resources.

Small Group Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin
FIRST READING NOTES

FIRST READING — The story of Abraham is about a man who listens to God and responds with faith and obedience. When he hears God’s call to leave his homeland, he obeys. When God promises him and his wife Sarah a child, he believes even though Sarah is advanced in years. When God asks him to sacrifice his only son, he does not question God. This is a story of a man trusting God even when it makes no sense to trust him. Being a man of great faith, Abraham presumes God knows what he is doing. Abraham’s response to God is not “Why, God?” or “Why me?” but one of obedience, trust and action. In the context of our Lenten liturgy, this reading points to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. This story is also intended to teach the Israelites about the immorality of human sacrifice—something that was normal during Abraham’s time. As beloved sons and daughters of God, we are called to faithfulness and obedience especially in times of trials.

SOURCE ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission. Table of Contents
SECOND READING NOTES

SECOND READING — These verses may have been written by Paul to encourage people whose faith is being tested because of suffering. Paul’s contention, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is intended to elicit a response of faith. Who can defeat those who have God on their side? God’s willingness to sacrifice his only Son on our behalf should surely prove, without doubt, his love for and interest in us.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
GOSPEL NOTES

GOSPEL — In this mystical and awe-filled event, Jesus and his three apostles experience the glory of God. They are, as it were, transported into another reality. The references to Jesus’ face “dazzling as the sun” and his 6 clothes “radiant as light” are reminiscent of Old Testament theophanies (appearances of God). The presence of Moses and Elijah symbolizes “the Law” (given to Moses) and “the Prophets.” In Jesus, both converge and are brought to fulfillment. The response of the apostles is one of incredible joy and holy terror. They are so over-awed that they do not want to leave: “Let us make three tents.” But they are also overcome with fear. Spiritual theologians tells us that the “experience of the holy” can cause us to be overjoyed and terrified at the same time. Sometimes that which we most deeply desire, e.g., intimacy with God or another, may also be most terrifying to us. We are afraid of losing ourselves to another. The heavenly voice tells the apostles to listen to Jesus for he is God’s anointed Messiah. In the dark days ahead, this mountaintop experience will sustain both Jesus and the apostles. Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the night before he died: “We have some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter now. Because I have been to the mountaintop … mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.”

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

DISCUSS:

1. Share with the group or person next to you what spoke to you most in the Gospel. With this first question, try to refrain from commenting on what others said. Just share what spoke to you and then move on to the next person.

2. What was the toughest thing God ever asked of you? Abraham would have answered, “When God asked me to sacrifice my only son.” What would your answer be?

3. Who/what are our Isaacs that we may find very hard to surrender to God if asked?

4. In the second reading, Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” To what extent have you felt God’s providential care down through the years? Was there ever a time you felt God had abandoned you?

5. Spiritually, have you ever had a “mountaintop” experience? If so, what was that like for you? How did it change your life?

6. Name on thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement Thibodeau
FIRST READING NOTES

FIRST READING — The Book of Genesis is not just an ordinary history of our origins as a human race, not even just the story of the origins of the Jewish people. It is not history in the sense in which we know it today. Genesis is primarily a testament or a religious witness account of origins. The values and commitments underlying the narratives are the message, not the brute facts. These are faith stories, treasured by a faithful people, for the sake of handing on the faith from one generation to the other. Christians read Genesis with a still further meaning. For example, Abraham represents God the Father who is willing to give up what is the very dearest to him, his own son. In the Christian Scriptures, God will literally give up the life of his Son, Jesus Christ, to death on the cross. We are stunned into silence at the sacrifice of the Son of God. We stand in silent awe as Abraham raises the knife over the chest of his only son, Isaac. We do not understand either scene. We simply bow our heads and obey

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.
SECOND READING NOTES

SECOND READING — In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul presents a highly refined theological discourse. Following the style and form of public debates in the Greek world, Paul lays out the teaching that Christians have nothing to fear from persecutions since God has already proved his love for them by sending his Son to the hill of Calvary, just as Abraham brought his son to the mountain for sacrifice.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.
GOSPEL NOTES

GOSPEL —Mark anticipates already the scene on Mount Calvary where Jesus will be revealed in glory as his heart is pierced with the centurion’s lance. Jesus is very explicit in pointing to his death and resurrection as the final revelation and meaning of his life and his teaching. This is the measure of God’s love for his faithful people. On Mount Sinai, Moses, too, was transfigured in glory. Where God is, his servants become radiant. From the cloud, we hear the same voice we heard at his baptism, with the addition that we should “listen to him,” as was said of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). Moses represents the Law, Torah; Elijah represents the prophets. The booths which Peter proposes are signs of God’s dwelling in the midst of his people. Jesus says that this divine presence cannot be complete until his death and resurrection have occurred. Disciples need to be nourished by the Master. We cannot long continue in discipleship without being fed by the power and spirit of the One whom we follow. Christian disciples must stay close to Christ, must continue to listen to his teaching, must observe the power of his works, must recline at table with him and lay their heads on his breast. In the Church community, we encounter him in intimacy. We listen to him in the Scriptures proclaimed. We receive power and authority from outpourings of his Spirit. We share his body and blood in Eucharist. We commune with him in prayer. Thus, the disciples of today also are nurtured and strengthened. They, too, are transformed into his likeness. Mark uses every occasion to teach the disciples of Jesus, those who lived in the last quarter of the first Christian century. He has Jesus teaching his disciples so that the disciples of every age after that will also be taught by Jesus. His disciples are most often slow to understand and quite dimwitted. Mark is saying something about disciples in his day and ours!

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

DISCUSS:

1. Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

  • Describe your experience of a time when you felt close to God. Were you comforted by that closeness?
  • Comparing your experience with that of the disciples of Jesus, what purpose to you think the Lord has in allowing us to feel the beauty and goodness of his presence?

2. Moses and Elijah appear to verify that Jesus has now assumed the roles of lawgiver and spokesperson for God.

  • When the disciples “saw only Jesus,” what were they to conclude? That the law and the prophets were now fulfilled? That Jesus is to be heard now, as completing the law and the prophets?
  • Why do you think we do not spontaneously come to that conclusion when we too “see only Jesus” now?

3. What comfort and assurance do you find in the community of the Church which has preserved and shared with us the story of the Transfiguration?

  • Do you see the Church community as comforting and assuring the world?
  • What would your parish community need to do to make more visible to all its comforting and reassuring role?
SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

Bible Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the 1st reading, in what ways is the story of “the binding of Isaac” a foreshadowing—or type—of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross? What is the difference?

2. In the 2nd reading what does Paul tell us that God did for us? What results from this? What confidence and trust should we have in God as a result of this?

3. What is the connection between Mark 9:1 and the Transfiguration?

4. What do you imagine this scene was like? What is the significance of Moses’ and Elijah’s presence? Of the voice (see Mark 1:11)? Why would this event be important for the disciples?

5. Who played the role of Elijah (see Matthew 17:10-13)? With what result (Mark 6:14-29)? How could John the Baptist’s fate help the disciples understand the nature of Jesus’ messiahship?”

6. Where have you grasped a bit of Jesus’ glory in a special way?  How does the picture of a suffering Messiah shape your view of what the Christian life is all about?

SOURCE: © 2014 Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics by Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son?

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

In a way, today’s first reading is a shocking and disturbing story because in it we read about God demanding that Abraham sacrifice his only son, the son on which future legacy rested in. The story could leave us with a very disturbing image of God. The story is a clever one in that it sets out in the opposite direction to that in which it hopes to leave the listener. It starts out by leading us to believe that God believes in human sacrifice, but in actual fact one key message of the story is that human sacrifice is abhorrent to God.

When God asks Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him, we want to cry out: “stop”, “this is wrong.” But, Abraham lived amongst people who believed in offering human sacrifice to their gods. So what God asked of Abraham was not that unusual for the times he lived in. When the angel appeared and told Abraham not to kill Isaac, it was God saying to Abraham “The people around you may think their gods demand human sacrifice, but I don’t. In fact, I hate the idea and I do not want you nor your descendents to do this.”

Killing in the name of God

Going up the mountain, Abraham believed that he was going to kill another human being in God’s name. Coming down the mountain, he knew that it was wrong to “kill another in God’s name”. Sadly, killing in the name of God has been widely practiced down the ages. Even in our own day there are people who kill for religious beliefs and who think that in doing so they are honoring God. Yigal Amir who shot Yitzhak Rabin in October 1995 was a Jewish religious fundamentalist. The Palestinian suicide bombers, who from time to time have struck at Israel, killing innocent men, women and children, were Muslim fundamentalists. Paul Hill, who killed a doctor and bodyguard outside a Florida abortion clinic in 1994, was a former Presbyterian minister. These are but a few examples.

A Message about Trust in God

The second message that today’s first reading seeks to convey is one of Abraham’s absolute faith and trust. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, he was willing to obey. Being a man of faith, Abraham believed God knew what he was doing. His response was not one of : Why God are you asking this of me? Rather, his response was one of faith. Of course, it is human for us to ask the why questions, but in the end what saves the day for us is not answers, but faith in a God who knows what he is doing even though it makes no sense to us.

So our first reading is one with two layers of meaning: One seeks to condemn human sacrifice. The second one seeks to hold up for us a model of faith, one who was willing to give back to God his most cherished gift. In his book of meditations on the Lenten readings, Fr. Emeric Lawrence O.S.B., tells this story of a woman at the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec who saw.

A distraught mother carrying a tiny child, and she went to meet her. The woman had come a great distance with the child, the only one she would ever have, she thought , and now he had an affliction which the doctors said was incurable. The only hope was a miracle, and she had brought the child to St. Anne’s shrine to pray for that. The sister accompanied the mother to the shrine.

“As we prayed,” the sister said, ” I witnessed the struggle and rebellion of this woman refusing to give up her child. Her sorrow was terrible to see. Yet the miracle came. But it came to the mother, not the child. When she left I knew that she had offered the child back to God and had surrendered him as a gift. A few weeks later I received word that the child had died. But the following Christmas there came a card with the picture of a beautiful baby boy whom the mother had called Michael, the same name she had given to the first son. And the mother wrote: ‘Now I have a son Michael in heaven and a son Michael to give me joy on earth.'”

The story well illustrates today’s readings. Being a Christian means being willing to offer back to God what is nearest and dearest to us-as Abraham did, as God the Father did, as the woman in the story did. No one, least of all Jesus himself, ever said that being a disciple is easy. What is dearest to us may be a human person, a relative, a friend-or it may just be an old way of life, a profession, or just our opinions and prejudices, our own will. Whatever it is that we give back to God makes us victims like Isaac, like Christ, like little Michael. But it also makes us priests like Abraham, like the Father, and like the mother in the story.

Reflection Questions

What was the toughest thing God ever asked you to let go of? To what extent do we tend to think that all that we have is ours versus the “stewardship thinking” that says” “All belongs to God. We own nothing. Everything, including children are only on loan to us.” Who or what are the “Isaacs” that we still hold unto as if they belonged to us? What would it cost us, what would it take for us to say “ok, this is yours, I surrender him/her, it to you”.

Parallel Between Isaac and Jesus

Just as the waters of the Flood prefigured the waters of baptism, Isaac prefigures Christ. Fr. Lawrence writes:. The parallel between Isaac and Jesus is perfect. Both are the well-beloved-and only-sons of their fathers. Both carry the wood on which they are to be slain. Both are innocent. Both are willing to die freely, out of love. What we can only try to imagine is the anguish that rends the hearts of the fathers at the prospect of seeing their sons sacrificed. Parents who lose a child through death, sickness, or drugs have some idea of the feeling of Abraham and the Father almighty

SOURCE: © 2014 Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics by Vince Contreras. Used with permission.
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