2nd Sunday of Lent B - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2006

The readings today present us with four different people who trusted: Abraham, Jesus, the Psalmist, and perhaps even Isaac. Two of them, at least, trusted the impossible, and their trust occasioned immense anguish and the surrender of all certainty: Abraham and Jesus. Abraham had had an unshakeable sense that God would give him a land of his own, descendents and a blessed world through him. The only promise of the three that looked at all likely was descendants – at least he had an unexpected son, an only son, whom he deeply loved. Yet now he was equally certain that God was asking him to kill his son as a sacrifice, to surrender his only son, and with him, further descendants - to surrender a future. (Don’t get hung up on whether God actually tested him this way: the original event is lost in the mists of antiquity. Enough to know for the sake of the story Abraham’s call to trust despite the impossible, despite the absurd.)

The Transfiguration is placed in the Gospel narrative immediately after Jesus had shared with his disciples his sense of his own fate: he would soon be removed from the scene, disposed of, killed, and because of that, his mission would end in total failure. He had shared too his sense that, if they followed him truly, they too would face the same fate.

Both Abraham and Jesus chose to face the impossible, the irrational, because they trusted God, not necessarily a God whom they understood, but a God who was mystery – a mystery they both felt they could somehow trust. Abraham had no idea how; Jesus believed in resurrection (whatever that might mean!). Both trusted God to make sense out of nonsense, to bring life out of death.

There was third one who trusted: God trusted Abraham; God trusted Jesus, trusted that each would trust him and that his hope for the world would not be betrayed.

When Jesus shared with the disciples his certainty that he would be killed and that they too would pay the price of suffering – (if they took seriously the challenge to love), the disciples virtually went into psychological denial – they could not come to terms with it at all. The message of the voice from the cloud was simply: "Yes, the one I love will indeed die painfully, shamefully. You – listen to what he has said".

I would expect that some of you here have suffered because you have chosen to love, perhaps to gingerly set out on the road towards forgiveness (despite the recurrence of overwhelming feelings of hatred and vindictiveness) – uncertain, wondering whether you were fools, perhaps seeing little or no immediate result, but remaining steadfast because you trusted God, because you trusted love. Perhaps yours was the response of the Psalmist today: I trusted, even when I said: I am sorely afflicted. 

A wonderful thing is that God trusts you. God’s vision - God’s hope - for the world is realised precisely by decisions like yours. Refuse them, and God’s trust is made hollow, the world does not change, redemption gets blocked. God trusted you. You responded. God’s redemptive grace continues to flow in our world.