27th / 28th Feb 2021

posted 1 Mar 2021, 07:01 by Parish Office

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B (27 & 28/2/21)

Sometimes, something tragic happens to us that really puts us to the test. It could be a cancer diagnosis. It could be someone close to us suffers a serious car accident, like Tiger Woods recently. It might be that an exam result isn’t what we were hoping for, with future hopes dashed. It seems that God is laying a heavy cross on us. It can throw us into shock, disbelief, anger, numbness, and maybe we just don’t know what to think. Sometimes, the Lord asks difficult things of us, that turn our lives upside-down. So what went through Abraham’s mind? God put him to the test and said to him:

“Take your son … your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.” (Gen 22:2)

You can imagine the confusion, shock and sadness that Abraham might have felt. The way it’s put really builds up the emotion: it’s not that Abraham has hundreds of children. God reminds him: “your only child Isaac, whom you love” and to offer him as a burnt offering. What father, who loved his son, would not have his heart torn out by that sort of request? But Abraham obeys. Abraham may also have wondered, given that God has promised him that it is through Isaac that He will establish His covenant, how will that happen if Isaac is dead and never has any children. Still, Abraham trusts in God.

Just as a little aside, there’s also the question of child sacrifice. At the time of Abraham, it wasn’t unheard of, and so in one sense, Abraham may not have been so surprised about God requesting it. But the point of the passage is, that God does not want child sacrifice. It’s later in the Old Testament that God specifically tells the people not to practice it.

So Abraham goes through with God’s command, and at the last moment, God tells him to stop. He has passed the test with flying colours. Once again, notice the emotion in how God praises and rewards him:

“I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – [this is no ordinary promise – it has the backing of the Almighty] because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, 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, as a reward for your obedience.” (Gen 22:16-18)

Yes, if we want to have God’s blessings, then we have to do God’s will. That’s our side of the deal. What about God’s side?

The ram, the male sheep sacrificed in place of Isaac, represents Christ, who died in our place for our sins. When Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, there were the themes of Abraham’s love for Isaac as his only son, and of his obedience towards God. With Christ, the themes are similar: Christ’s love for His Father and for the whole of humanity, and His obedience: to His Father, and to His mission. It was obedience to the truth, and the fact that He spoke truth to power, that led to His crucifixion. He wasn’t going to back down and compromise the truth. He couldn’t deny who He was and His relationship with His Father, and so the Jewish authorities wanted Him crucified. Christ meekly went to the Cross, like a lamb being led to slaughter.

So let’s tie this in with St Paul in the second reading: “With God on our side, who can be against us?” Abraham gives the example of total obedience to God, even when it costs so much; Christ goes through with it, and we are reconciled to God. We have so much to be thankful for. We are so richly blessed because of Christ. St Paul continues:

“Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.” (Romans 8:32)

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are more richly blessed than Abraham was. Our blessings go further. We know Christ. When He was transfigured on the mountain, Peter, James and John must have been awestruck and afraid as they saw Moses and Elijah, two heroes of the Jewish faith, appear there before them. But Christ is even more important than them – many times more; infinitely more important. We know Christ. We don’t just know about Him, we know Him. He is our Lord, our God, our Master and our brother. Through our baptism into the Catholic faith, we have a family relationship with Him – that is what being baptised and becoming an adopted son or daughter of God means.

We go through our trials, and sometimes, they are massive and life-changing trials. But God is with us through it all. Despite our sufferings, we are still, very greatly, blessed indeed.