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Homily for March 4, 2012

2nd Sunday in Lent, Year B
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Romans 8:31b-34
Mark 9:2-10
March 4, 2012

For us, it seems impossible that God would have asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  To sacrifice any human being should seem impossible and immoral.  

To add to that Abraham and Sarah had waited a long time to have a child.  She was well beyond child-bearing years but God had made a promise of a son to Abraham. 

And after all the waiting, God now tells Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Remarkable!

What’s even more remarkable is that Abraham is willing to do it!  And if you read the whole story (which I encourage you to do because we skipped a few verses – Genesis 22) Isaac, while not knowing ahead of time what was going to happen, seems to accept all of this.

It seems Abraham’s faith in God is perfect.  A couple of things to note here.  First of all, Abraham’s faith was strong but it wasn’t always perfect.  After all, he doubted when God told them that Sarah, even in her advanced years, would bear a son. 

Secondly, even with perfect faith the command to sacrifice Isaac should seem immoral.  I doubt it would have been enough for Abraham just to hear these words to obey them.  He must have felt God’s divine presence very strongly in that moment to know it truly was God speaking to him.

In the end, God stops Abraham before he sacrifices Isaac.  

But many centuries later, God sacrifices his own son for us.  It has been God’s plan from the beginning.  As Paul writes to the Romans God “did not spare his own Son.”  God held nothing back.

Turning to the gospel, this passage comes shortly after Jesus’ identification by Peter “You are the Christ” and Jesus’ first prediction of his Passion.  His disciples do not understand how it could be.  Peter even rebukes Jesus for suggesting such a thing.

Christ’ Passion is difficult to understand.  Even much of his preaching can be difficult to understand.  Jesus knows what his disciples will have to go through.  He knows they need assurance.

So, as he prepares to go up on the mountain, he takes Peter, James, and John with him to “see” what happens.  He is transfigured but transfigured to what – His divine state.  His clothes became dazzling white, white a sign of purity, the glory of God.

Then Elijah and Moses appear with him?  Why?  For further assurance of course!  Elijah symbolizes the prophets and Moses symbolizes the Law.  The appearance of Elijah and Moses signify that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that has gone before Jesus – more assurance.

Peter saying, “it is good that we are here” recognizes that something incredible is happening.  “He hardly knew what to say.”  That’s ok.  Sometimes people like to say that when they meet God they are going to have a lot of questions to ask.  God will have the answers but when we stand in the divine presence of God I believe we will be so happy and full of grace that we won’t care about those questions.  So, it doesn’t really matter that Peter doesn’t know what to say.  Words aren’t needed in that moment.

But a few words are offered by the Father.  Why?  More assurance!  What does the voice say?  “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him.”  More assurance that we can trust in Jesus.

All this assurance is important to help Peter, James, and John to get through the events that will follow.  Peter has already called Jesus the Christ but without knowing what it really means.

Seeing the Transfiguration is a step towards understanding what it truly means to say Jesus is the Christ.

Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone about this until he had risen from the dead.  At that point, they didn’t know what risen from the dead even meant but they remembered what had happened and when Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, they understood.

We each face challenges in our own lives.  Where do we stand in our own faith in the midst of those challenges?  

Do we hold back or do we give God our all?

These are the questions that we are to ask ourselves in this season of Lent.

Abraham was called to sacrifice his Son Isaac.  God calls each of us to make sacrifices because of our love for God and love for one another.  

What sacrifice are you being called to make?  

Are you holding back?

Why?

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