Sunday, March 01, 2015

Trust Walk

2nd Sunday in Lent (B)
Picture: cc Melody Joy Kramer

Sisters and brothers, have you ever heard of something called a trust walk? Perhaps some of you have done it. It’s a kind of team-building exercise. A group of people is divided into pairs. One person in each pair is then blindfolded. And the other person has to lead the blindfolded person around an obstacle course. After the first person has completed the course, the roles are reversed. What do you think, sisters and brothers? Have you tried this before? Is it something that you’d be willing to do? Would you find it easy? Or difficult? Well it depends, right?

It depends on how much you trust your partner. That’s why it’s called a trust walk. The activity helps to test and to build up trust in the members of the group. So that they can work more effectively together. And, of course, the more dangerous the obstacles, the greater the trust required. If, for example, you knew that you only had to walk around an empty courtyard, then perhaps it wouldn’t matter who was leading you. But if I were to blindfold you and ask you to choose someone to lead you across that dangerous road in front of the church. Who would you choose? You’ll probably choose someone you know very well. Someone you trust. Maybe a relative or a close friend. Someone you know, from experience, to be trustworthy. You wouldn’t choose a stranger. Or, worse still, an enemy. The more dangerous the obstacle, the greater the trust required.

I mention all this because, in each of our Mass readings today, we find people being invited to go on something like a trust walk. In the first reading, God puts Abraham to the test. It’s as though Abraham is asked to enter a dangerous obstacle course blindfolded. But, to see the danger and the blindfold, we must first recall that, earlier in the story, God had promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. And this promise can be fulfilled only through Isaac. Since he is the only son of Abraham and his wife Sarah. But then, in the first reading, God does something that is very difficult to understand. Something that sounds crazy. God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. To kill the one person through whom God’s promise might be fulfilled.

To sacrifice Isaac is to put God’s promise in danger. Without a legitimate son to succeed him, how is Abraham to become the father of many nations? Abraham has no way of knowing the answer to this question. So the call to sacrifice Isaac is really an invitation to step out into the dark. To go on a trust walk. To allow God to lead him through a dangerous obstacle blindfolded. And this is a very difficult thing to do. Yet Abraham obeys. He proves himself willing to do whatever God asks of him. He lets himself be blindfolded. He braves the danger. He crosses the obstacle. He passes the test. How is Abraham able to do this?

The reason is because he already has a very close relationship with God. He knows, from experience, that God can be trusted. And so he is able to put his trust in God even when he is sorely afflicted. Even when he has to pass through great danger. Even when he has to sacrifice something most precious. Without knowing why. And without knowing how God’s promise to him will be fulfilled. In response, God rewards Abraham. God transforms the sacrifice into salvation. God turns the danger into a blessing. I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore… All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants... Not only will God bless Abraham, God promises also to make him a blessing for others.

In the gospel too, we find people preparing for a trust walk. The reading is taken from the 9th chapter of Mark’s gospel. Earlier, in chapter 8, Jesus had already told his disciples that he would soon have to suffer and die on the cross. And then rise again after three days. At this point in the gospel, Jesus has already started travelling in the direction of great danger. He is walking to Calvary. And he invites his disciples to renounce themselves, to take up their own crosses, and to follow him.

This is, of course, not an easy thing to do. It requires great courage. And deep trust. The disciples need to know that Jesus is actually worthy of their trust. Which is why, in the gospel, Jesus lets three of them experience his Transfiguration. By showing Peter, and James, and John, who he really is. By revealing to them his hidden identity as the glorious Son of God. Jesus is helping them to trust him enough to follow him into the danger of Calvary. He is showing them that he can be relied upon to lead them safely through the obstacle of the Cross.

Which is why, at the end of the experience, God the Father gives them this invitation: This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him. The Father calls them to trust in Jesus. To follow him into the darkness of the Cross. This is the true meaning of the Transfiguration. It is meant not just to give the three disciples a good time. But to strengthen their trust. So that they can find the courage to do what Abraham does in the first reading. To continue following Jesus. To continue trusting in God. Even when they are blindfolded. Even when they have to pass through a dangerous obstacle. Without knowing why.

And it’s not just Abraham and Peter. It’s not just James and John. Who are called to do this. Isn’t life itself also very much like a trust walk? Every so often, after a time of relative peace and quiet, we may find our lives turned upside down by one challenging situation or another. Maybe it’s a major illness. Or a death in the family. Or a broken relationship. Or a setback in our career. Or a crisis of faith. An experience that worries our mind. And breaks our heart. Something that leads us to ask the question why? Why me? Why now? Why this? And, all too often, when faced with these experiences, the temptation is for us to think that God has forsaken us. So we too should forsake God.

And yet, our readings remind us that there is another way to look at such situations. That the trials we face may actually be a way in which God is testing us. Strengthening our faith. Building up our trust. Reminding us of what the second reading tells us. That with God on our side who can be against us? That Jesus has not only died for us – he has already risen from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us. This is our Transfiguration experience. The same experience that we are celebrating at this Mass. And that we are preparing to celebrate at Easter. By putting ourselves through the discipline of Lent. The glorious feast by which God changes death into new life. Transforms great danger into bountiful blessing. Lent is a time when we allow God to test us. To help us to grow in our knowledge of who God is. So that we can trust God enough to take up our crosses everyday. And to follow him on the road that leads through danger, to true happiness and lasting peace. Not just for us. But also through us, for the rest of our world.

Sisters and brothers, how is God inviting you to take a trust walk with him today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord,

    In YOU and YOU ALONE, I place my entire TRUST.

    Lead me along your paths and guide me on Your ways.

    During this Lent, change my heart, O Lord, and lead me back from my wilful ways into Your Loving Embrace.

    Teach me to love like You and to walk on the narrow paths, which lead to You.

    Grant me the courage I need to dare to TRUST You and to let You transform me.

    Come Lord Jesus, Come and lead me back HOME to You.


    Sih Ying
    1 March 2015 .


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