Hope in Hardship – Abraham & the Transfiguration

This post is also available in: Spanish, Italian

The call of Abraham and the Transfiguration of Jesus are presented to us on the 2nd Sunday of Lent because they teach us about how to approach hardship and suffering with faith and hope.

Imagine: you are ten years past customary retirement age.  It’s time finally to kick back and relax.  You live in a great city where everything is at your fingertips – shopping opportunities, cultural events, all your relatives and lifelong friends.  Suddenly God appears and tells you to pack up, uproot your life, and march into an uncivilized wilderness.

Call of Abram, aka Abraham

This is what happens to Abram in Genesis 12.  He lives in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.  He’s 75 and he and his wife are not getting any younger.  This God later changes his name to Abraham.  Yet does not even know the name of the God who calls and renames him.

Wouldn’t you “discuss” this one a bit?  Not Abraham.  Genesis reports no backtalk, no “yeah-buts.”  In a fit of understatement, Genesis simply says “Abram went as the Lord directed him.”

Faith Means Walking

That’s faith.  Abraham hears a command from a God he can’t see, believes that this God must know what He is doing, and begins a journey to he knows not where.  Keep in mind that Paul says “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7).  That’s why Abraham is the great model of faith in the Old Testament.  For faith is not just about believing.  It’s about walking.

abraham call genesis transfiguration tabor 2nd second Sunday of Lent faith hope hardship

Obviously Abraham’s choice to walk entailed great hardship.  What was the motivation that drove him to do it?  Simple.  There was something that God promised him that he desperately wanted.  He had a lot of things–wife, property, servants, and all the creature comforts afforded by his civilization.  Yet he lacked a son.  And for a Semite like Abram who had no belief in any sort of afterlife, a son was the only ticket to immortality.  A son would, presumably, go out and beget sons, thus keeping his father’s name and memory alive.  God promised not only descendants, but a progeny so numerous and great that all the communities of the earth would find blessing in Abram’s name.

Hope in Hardship

So it was desire for future glory that enabled Abram to put up with the hardships entailed in answering the call.  This desire is called hope.

About 1900 years later, St. Paul writes these words to Timothy “bear your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails” (2 Tim 1:8).  To be a Christian during the first 300 years meant risking everything.  If the Romans caught you, it could mean torture or death or, if you got off easy, the confiscation of all of your possessions.  Why would people take this chance?  For the same reason Abram embraced hardship — hope.  They had been giving a vision and a promise of eternal glory.  They understood that no earthly good could compare with this everlasting joy and so were willing to suffer whatever loss necessary in order to secure it.   In this, they followed their master who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”  (Hebrew 12:2.)

Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor

transfiguration icon crop of apostles darker

 

Aware of the trauma the apostles would shortly suffer through the horror of his crucifixion, the Lord Jesus gave their leaders a vision of hope to sustain them.  He went up on Mount Tabor and at last appeared as he really was.    In anticipation of his risen glory, the Light of the World allowed the dazzling white of his divinity to be revealed.   The Law and the Prophets bore witness to Him through Moses and Elijah.  The Father’s voice boomed the affirmation that this was his beloved son.  The Holy Spirit was manifested as the shekinah cloud of glory which had led the Israelites on their desert journey.  This transfiguration is a scene that proclaims the whole gospel, the Good News of a glorious life, won by the Savior, that lasts forever.

But the experience itself did not last forever.  It was not given to them so they could erect tents and stay there.  There was still walking to do.  The path called the Via Dolorosa lay before Him and before them as well.  The experience called the Transfiguration was to show them that this way of the cross was not a road to death but through death to a life that makes even death seem but a trifle.

This article on Abraham, the Transfiguration, hope, faith and hardship is offered as a reflection on Genesis 12:1-4, Psalm 33, 2 Timothy 1:8-10 and Matthew 17:1-9, the readings for the Second (2nd) Sunday of Lent, cycle A.

Tags:
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
From a colorful and varied background as a professor of theology, a father of five, business owner, and professional performer Marcellino D’Ambrosio (aka “Dr. Italy”) crafts talks, blog posts, books, and videos that are always fascinating, practical, and easy to understand.  He is a TV and radio personality, New York Times best-selling author, speaker, and pilgrimage host who has been leading people on a journey of discovery for over thirty years.  For complete bio and video, visit the Dr. Italy page.
  • Jacqueline Elizabeth

    Thank you, timely article for me.

  • Wonderful comparison and explanation… Loved the multiple witnesses you posted in the few brief moments in the transfiguration… truely without a vision even people of faith will grow languid, but the Lord and His heaven will go into overprovision to ensure the strength of vision we need… He is not slack concerning His promises… and the walk! O the walk… now making the Rosary the purpose my vision for each night and each tomorrow is always multiplied by 5x in each mystery Our Lady breathes upon throughout each decade…. sometimes I think walking has no particular destination except the heart of Jess and Our Holy Mother… each step strengthens consecration. Thanks again Dr. Italy <3