2nd Sunday of Lent B - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2009

If you have been watching a serial on the TV and you miss one episode, it can sometimes be difficult to make sense of the next. The Gospels can be a bit like that. Take today's Gospel, for example. If you aren't aware of what has just been said previously, it can be difficult to see the point of what is being said  today.  

In today's story, the voice from the cloud says of Jesus (to Peter, James and John): Listen to him. Listen to what? What's he said? Sometimes we may be inclined to take the message to mean everything Jesus said. But, read in the light of the previous episode, it is referring to something much more specific, in fact, something that is really hard to listen to. Immediately before this episode, Mark wrote of Jesus telling the disciples that he was facing certain suffering and death. Peter had had trouble with that, and, in the dialogue that followed, Jesus went so far as to say to Peter: Get behind me, Satan. Perhaps Jesus was struggling with the prospect himself. Jesus then went on to add that Peter's way of thinking was human thinking, not God's way. Strong words. So, to underline the importance and the non-negotiability of the message, Mark included the episode we just read today.

There the voice from the cloud insisted that suffering and death do not disprove who Jesus is. They illustrate it: This is my son, the beloved .. the one like me, the one I love. That's hard to take on board. Instinctively, we think that suffering and a loving God don't sit well together. That is not what God says: This is the one I love .. This is my son, the one just like me! Listen to that!

In fact, in the previous episode, Jesus had gone further, and had said to the rest of the disciples: If any want to be my followers, then let them deny themselves and take up their cross ... and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it. That's hard to take on board, too!

Following Jesus, living the Gospel, mean opting to love, to love people. As we grow,  if we grow, slowly we come to see that to love means to not be in control. Real love puts no conditions. Real love makes us vulnerable; it sets us us up to be exploited. In some cases, in a world that doesn't work that way, it can be dangerous. It meant the cross for Jesus. For some Christians today, it means something very similar. For us, it more likely takes the shape of the constant, sometimes discouraging, often unappreciated choice to respect the other, to listen to the other, to serve the other, and, when in our vulnerability our goodness has been exploited, to forgive the other.

That really means denying our ego, and, as Jesus put it, it can feel like losing our life. Surprisingly, to the extent that we succeed, we find ourselves experiencing personally a growing peacefulness, and unsuspected freedom, that we would like the rest of the world to share. Perhaps, it makes sense to Listen to him!