You believe that God is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Mark 12:28-34) You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus, the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” James 2:19-23
Our first reading for the Second Sunday of Lent is that passage James refers to in his letter. James correctly points out that there is something more to faith than saying we have it, or we love Jesus, or we attend Mass every Sunday. Our Gospel notices the difference as well, as does our second reading.
“Faith,” comes from a Hebrew word, one we use every Sunday and close all of our prayers with. From the Latin, it simply means trust. It is not so in the Hebrew. The root word in Hebrew is, “Amen.” The root is “Emit.” The three radicals (in Hebrew, the letters are radicals) are “A,” “M,” and “T.” “A,” is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “M,” the middle letter, and “T,” is the last letter. “A,” stands for leadership, “M,” for water, (as in Baptism,” and “T,” for the cross. These come from the shapes of the letters in that language.
Another way to present the idea is that when we have faith, we orient everything we have toward God. In our second reading, St. Paul notices this. “Many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”
Compare this with Abraham who, like the Egyptian monks of two millennia ago, leaves all he has and strikes out into the desert. Compare this with the Egyptian slaves who head out into the desert and become the Hebrew nation. God becomes the beginning, the middle, and the end of their lives. This is faith.
We read in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent, “As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen of him.”
The allusion is to those Hebrew slaves in Exodus 19:16-18:
On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar,* so that all the people in the camp trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the NAME had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently.
Exodus goes out of its way to show the trauma and the life changing aspects of the event. Luke does the same in the transfiguration. For the Hebrews, from then on, everything points to God. From now on, everything will point to Christ From now on, every action will be living in Christ, in present time. From now on, the goal in life will be living the commandments given on chapter later, for the Hebrews.
Our commandments are not written on stone, or on paper. They are written on our hearts. In the original Greek, God says, “This is my beloved Son, listen of him.” That is, read of him and copy what he does, what he thinks, how he lives, and whom he loves. Doing this orients us for the present, and for the future.
When we live this new life, the cloud envelopes us. The Greeks called the perichoresis, or living in the cloud, which is God. It is the Divine Dance with God. It is all consuming. We need to notice the next event after the transfiguration we read about today, in each of the Gospels. It is Jesus healing the epileptic. To truly be spiritual is to act on the spirituality. It is going out to heal and transform the world. This is faith in Jesus Christ. Anything less is what the demons do.