Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn
March 18th 2012 - Fourth Sunday of Lent
Living in the Light
The Sunday readings in Lent have been showing us the high points of salvation history - God’s covenant with creation in the time of Noah; His promises to Abraham; the law He gave to Israel at Sinai.
In today’s First Reading, we hear of the destruction of the kingdom established by God’s final Old Testament covenant - the covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89:3).
His chosen people abandoned the law He gave them. For their sins, the temple was destroyed, and they were exiled in Babylon. We hear their sorrow and repentance in the exile lament we sing as today’s Psalm.
But we also hear how God, in His mercy, gathered them back, even anointing a pagan king to shepherd them and rebuild the temple (see Isaiah 44:28-45:1,4).
God is rich in mercy, as today’s Epistle teaches. He promised that David’s kingdom would last forever, that David’s son would be His Son and rule all nations (see 2 Samuel 7:14-15; Psalm 2:7-9). In Jesus, God keeps that promise (see Revelation 22:16).
Moses lifted up the serpent as a sign of salvation (see Wisdom 16:6-7; Numbers 21:9). Now Jesus is lifted up on the cross, to draw all people to himself (see John 12:32).
Those who refuse to believe in this sign of the Father’s love, condemn themselves - as the Israelites in their infidelity brought judgment upon themselves.
But God did not leave Israel in exile, and He does not want to leave any of us dead in our transgressions. We are God’s handiwork, saved to live as His people in the light of His truth.
Midway through this season of repentance, let us again behold the Pierced One (see John 19:37), and rededicate ourselves to living the “good works” that God has prepared us for.
In the second and fourth Sundays of Lent (Cycle B), we see an ancient symbolic reading of the Old Testament - Abraham’s “binding” of Isaac as a symbol of God’s love for the world in giving His only son.
In Genesis 22, Abraham brings his firstborn, his only son, the one he loves, to offer him as a sacrifice. On the third day (see Genesis 22:4), an angel gives him his son back - not dead as expected, but alive. And this sacrificial offering leads God to promise to bless all the nations of the earth.
The New Testament writers read this story as symbolizing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
In fact, God’s praise of Abraham for not withholding His only Son is echoed by Paul (see Romans 8:32) and John (see John 3:16). Hebrews says Abraham believed in the resurrection, and that Isaac’s release was a “symbol” of Christ’s resurrection (see Hebrews 11:17-19).
Jesus is the true heir promised to Abraham (see Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16). Abraham rejoiced at Isaac’s birth because he could foresee the day when Christ would be born (see John 8:56). Like Isaac, Christ carried the wood of His sacrifice (see Genesis 22:6; John 19:6).
And by His sacrificial death and resurrection the blessing of Abraham was extended to the nations (see Galatians 3:14; Genesis 22:16-18).