Homily: 2nd Sunday in Lent – Cycle B
priest at one time had to confront the idea that, due to the discipline of
celibacy, he would have to sacrifice the idea of ever having a son or daughter
of his own. The natural drive to start a
family is a powerful one: having a child is one of the most fundamentally
generative acts of which one is capable.
Thus, to forego having children when you are capable of doing so, is a
profound act of self-sacrifice. Men who
are called to the priesthood understand this and spend much time in their years
of formation preparing to make this sacrifice for the sake of God’s kingdom.
of you who are parents here certainly know that having children is full of
sacrifices, too. One thing that I am
often keen to remind parents is that having children is a covenant: a sacred
agreement between God and them to bring forth a child into the world, to raise
the child to know God and to follow his commandments, and then to hand that
child back over to God to guide according to his will for the good of his
kingdom. Too often, I think, parents
forget that last part: that, in many ways, they are called to be stewards of
their children, not their owners.
Children are a gift from God, meant to be cared for and nurtured, and
then turned back over to God when he calls them for his good purpose (including
calling them home to himself). Parents
are often resistant on this last point, and rightfully so. You all love your children and desire to keep
them close to you, even when they are grown.
this is the exact situation that Abraham had to face in the account from the
book of Genesis that we heard in the first reading. Abraham and Sarah had waited many, many years
before God blessed them with a son, Isaac.
Then, before Abraham could even begin to count any grandchildren, God
calls him to make a sacrifice of Isaac (a “holocaust” sacrifice, to boot: a
sacrifice in which the victim is wholly burned in the offering, leaving nothing
behind). Abraham knew that this was part
of the covenant of having a child and so followed the Lord’s instruction to
make a sacrifice of his only son, Isaac.
Although the method seems abhorrent to our sensibilities, God’s request
of Abraham is not wholly different from a parent’s call to allow their son to
pursue the priesthood or their son or daughter to pursue the religious
life. In both, they are being asked to
give their son or daughter fully to God, holding nothing back. This is part of the inherent covenant with
God that parents enter into when they conceive a child.
that we don’t think God to be selfish or uncaring, we are given the account of
the Transfiguration from Mark’s Gospel.
In itself, the event is a theophany,
that is, a manifestation of God’s divinity.
In the context of today’s readings and in the context of this season of
Lent, it reveals God’s own sacrifice to us.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus is fully revealed as being divine in
nature. The voice of the Father coming
from the cloud reveals that Jesus is also a son, the divine Son of God the
Father. Because this is the season of
Lent, however, we know that Jesus is destined to make of himself a sacrifice on
the cross to expiate our sins.
Therefore, we see that God has not asked of us anything that he was not
willing to do himself.
asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, yet stayed his hand before the sacrifice
was completed. Abraham showed his
devoted willingness and God gave his son back to him. In turn, God sent his Son into the world to
manifest his love for us and to show us the way to the kingdom of heaven. Then, the Father did not hold back the hand
of the executioners, even though his Son begged him to do so! Rather, the Father watched as the Son suffered
willingly. And when he died, I’m sure
that the Father sighed a sigh of relief that it was over, knowing that, on the
third day after his death, he would rise again, completing the victory over sin
and death that he was sent to accomplish.
what is the point for today? The point
is to recognize that the call of this season of Lent is more than a call to
punish ourselves for our sins. Rather,
it is a call to renew our devotedness to God in loving response to his
devotedness to us. We do this by turning
away from our sins and making sacrifices of penance in order to purify
ourselves for the coming celebration of the great Paschal Mystery of Jesus, but
this is not an end in itself. Rather, it
is a means for us to renew our devotedness to God, and so to be ready to make a
sacrifice of ourselves (or our sons and daughters) for the sake of God’s
kingdom, which is the salvation of souls.
the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own Son, our sacrifices wouldn’t amount to
much. United to the sacrifice of Jesus,
however, which we do here in the Mass, our sacrifices take on the power of his
sacrifice and become effective for the building of God’s kingdom.
brothers and sisters, God loves each and every one of us and he desires to be
in a loving relationship with us. He has
called us, as his sons and daughters, to be coworkers in his kingdom to help
bring more and more of our brothers and sisters into his loving arms. Already, he has sacrificed what is most
important to him, his beloved Son, in order to save us from separation from him,
and he calls us to show our loving devotion to him by offering to him what is
most important to us. This time of Lent
is a time to examine our willingness to make this offering and to be purified
of any sinful desires that incline us to hold back our offerings. Thus purified, we’ll be able to unite our
offerings to the offering of Jesus on the cross, making our sacrifices an
outpouring of love that can bring new life into this fallen world.
we offer our thanksgiving to God in this Mass today, let us ask for the grace
to hold nothing back from God, imitating Mary in her “yes” to all God that asked
of her, including witnessing her Son suffer on the cross: knowing that, with
her, we too will enjoy the joy of witnessing his resurrection and of living in eternal
joy with him in heaven.
Given in Spanish at St. Joseph Parish: Rochester, IN –
February 25, 2024