First Reading Commentary
By commanding the sacrifice of Isaac, God clearly shows His dominion over humanity, the work of His Hands; but by rescinding that command, our Lord demonstrates that He doesn’t want man’s obedience to include human sacrifice. This was a necessary point to make at this particular time because the Canaanites performed human sacrifices for their gods.
Abraham displays remarkable faith because God promised him descendants through Isaac. Logically, you would think that Abraham would be asking how God could bring descendants from someone who is about to be sacrificed. And yet, Christ’s Sacrifice brought forth for Him countless brothers and sisters as well as countless children for God the Father and Mary His Mother.
God allows us to be “put to the test,” but never beyond what we can handle. Resisting temptation strengthens us and gives us perseverance and allows us to see for ourselves how devoted we are to the will of God. The fact that temptation strikes often should be convincing enough that this is an enemy we can’t defeat alone. We are creatures who are dependent on God.
Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only son, he also had Ishmael; but Isaac was the only son of Sarah. The words, “your only one,” prefigure God’s only Son, Jesus. The wood arranged on the altar prefigures the wood of the Cross of Christ. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son which points to God’s will to sacrifice His Son, Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Isaac never took place and Abraham is found pleasing in the sight of God. The lesson learned here is that the intentions of the heart can be found worthy of praise, or of blame, even when nothing of the exterior has taken place.
God puts us in touch with many people in Scripture who prefigure Christ. But they all returned to the dust of the earth leaving behind in our hearts the words: “To be continued.” Only One hung on the Cross and said: “It is all completed” (John ).
Second Reading Commentary
The questions Saint Paul raises in this Reading may come from his own life’s experience but because of his strong faith, these questions are likely raised by him because of his awareness of the difficulties that this life can bring to anyone. In other words, he is preaching to us.
For Christians, the answer to all of life’s troubles are found in a gaze; a gaze that contemplates that incredible act of love in which God the Father did not spare even His own Son for the sake of our salvation. Though we live in the face of many temptations and afflictions, we need not fear as long as we are faithful in the service of God; and being faithful does not mean we cannot fail from time-to-time. It is the enemy who seeks to convince us that our failings and sins have forever destroyed our chance at eternal happiness. If God does not condemn us, it is not possible for anyone or anything else to do so. If God “did not spare His own Son,” how could anyone argue or deny His love for us?
Jesus, in perfect obedience to His Father, and because of His love for us became the sacrificial Lamb. But He is raised and is seated at the right Hand of the Father where He intercedes for us.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah is to signify the law and the prophets; their appearance testifies to the harmony of the Old Law with the New and Everlasting Covenant. It’s also possible that their appearance is a special favor granted to them by God so that these great men of God could see Christ, the One they prefigured and prophesied about in their own lifetime.
The Venerable Bede proclaims: “Peter had forgotten that the glorious Kingdom of Christ was not of this world, but in heaven only; that he and the other apostles, clothed as they were with their mortality, could not participate in immortal joys; and that the mansions in the house of the Father are not raised with human hands. He again showed that he knew not what he said, by wishing to ‘make three tents,’ one for the law, one for the prophets, and one for the Gospel, since these three cannot be separated from each other.”
Saint Peter in great fear says: "Rabbi, it is good that we are here." Indeed, but being there can also be spiritually painful for human creatures as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux explains: "If sometimes a poor mortal feels that heavenly joy for a rapturous moment, then this wretched life envies his happiness, the malice of daily trifles disturbs him, this body of death weighs him down, the needs of the flesh are imperative, the weakness of corruption fails him, and above all brotherly love calls him back to duty. Alas! That voice summons him to re-enter his own round of existence." This is when love bursts through the boundaries of human love and enters the realm of celestial love.
Another explanation of what is likely happening to Saint Peter and surely the others is explained by Dom Nicholas Kempf in his work titled, Expositiones Mysticæ Cantica Canticorum. What he wrote translates as: “When hearts have been moved to jubilation of this sort, the things that result within the spirit cannot be put into conventional and customary words. Just as people drunk with wine lose the ability to talk in a normal fashion, so the bride drunk with sober intoxication speaks in a way intelligible not to anyone and everyone, but only to lovers loving in a similar way. So too, after tasting the sweetness of glory, Peter did not know what he was saying.”
The disciples believed in the resurrection of the dead but they didn’t know what Christ meant by His rising from the dead. Their minds were filled with ideas of a glorious kingdom in this world. Saint Leo the Great said the main purpose of the Transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the Cross from the hearts of the disciples as he adds: “He reveals His glory so that they may no longer be distressed by their own death or the death of the Master.”
In this season of what Saint John Paul II called “a season of intense prayer,” consider your own intensity level. Are you ready to climb that spiritual “high mountain” and prostrate yourself at the Feet of our glorious Savior in worship, love and fear? Are you ready to obey the command of God the Father concerning His Son by listening to Him?