Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sunday word, 04 March 2012

Our Other Vision 
Lent Sunday 2 (B) (04 Mar 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

After Abraham met God the first time in scripture’s narrative, Abraham moved in response to God’s invitation to leave the land and people he knew.1 In the land he entered Abraham built altars and worshiped God.2 His trust deepened. Years later, in the scripture just proclaimed, Abraham recognized God, who had blessed him with spouse, sons and wealth: Abraham! Abraham! Here I am!

The succeeding moments remain pivotal, but details, especially sacrifice of a beloved child, distract us: Take your son, your beloved whom you love, and offer him as a holocaust upon one of the mountains. This was not the first time Abraham had to wrestle with harm to a son. His first child of his wife’s servant some dozen years before he loved, too. His wife, Sarah, came to hate Ishmael and his mother so much that she demanded Abraham send them defenseless into the wilderness. God communicated then to Abraham that God would not only save Ishmael but ensure he would become a great nation. Though Sarah’s motive was not pure, God assured no harm would befall the boy, and Abraham could enjoy peace with his wife.3 
Professor Eleanor Stump4 noted that Abraham trusted God. With Ishmael Abraham did not have to choose between son and spouse. With Isaac the choice was starkly different: listen to God or not listen to God. His choice to listen to God, who had promised an everlasting covenant would be with Isaac and his descendants,5 made Abraham the father of faith. Abraham first laughed at that promise: how could a 100-year-old man and ninety-year old woman have children?6 Abraham trusted God contrary to appearances. He did not choose God over Isaac. Abraham trusted God would raise Isaac from the death of sacrifice to live and fulfill the covenant7 and walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living
Faith, trust in God, exceeds logic. It does not contradict logic. We may place ourselves in harm’s way to save another, but we would get out of harm’s way to save ourselves. Logic calculates in ways limited to appearances and sense. Faith is not limited by appearances or sense. I give myself to the Society of Jesus without knowing future and knowing Jesuits are limited and frail like me. Many of you give yourselves to spouses for better or worse; you raise children in a world not always friendly to anyone. Children, you give yourselves to parents and siblings when you would rather listen to yourselves. Relationships do not always play out as we plan them.

So it is for disciples and friendship with God. When three apostles beheld Jesus transfigured, they were in awe. Peter stammered, as we do in the face of awe: He hardly knew what to say, for they were all overcome with awe. All of us have our experiences with awe. We know how it leaves us speechless. We know experiences too sacred to tell another, even a spiritual director right away. Lent invites us to bask in our experiences of awe, then live from them in service. It might be respect when I realize how others respect me, and how God respects me to create me daily. It might be sharing with others when we realize how blessed are our resources. Lent invites us to savor the awe born of God’s desire not to spare [God’s] Son but...handed him over for the sake of us all and all creation.
Giving ourselves time to bask in the awe generated by the Trinity’s creative and redeeming love chooses Father, Son and Spirit. Savoring our awe and living from it allow us to give ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves. When we give ourselves, we participate in God’s self-giving for the sake of all, and we are transformed to be more compassionate—like God, life’s author and giver.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the Trinity’s presence with and for you.
  • Ask Abraham to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for creating and redeeming you and choosing you as one of his disciples.
  • Ask Jesus to help you recognize his power working through you and his risen presence in others.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught. Thy kingdom come is about the present as much as the future: the glory of Jesus dawns each present moment, at times more clearly than others. Faith is our vision to notice it and savor it.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Genesis 12.1-4.
  2. Genesis 12.6-8.
  3. Genesis 21.9-14.
  4. In her Veritas lecture, “Faith and the Problem of Evil: Abraham and Isaac,” the St. Louis University professor read closely the biblical narrative and dispels the misunderstanding that Abraham had to choose between Isaac and God. Access video.
  5. Genesis 17.19.
  6. Genesis 17.17.
  7. This is our Christian conviction, the conviction of the Letter to the Hebrews (11.17-19), when it recalled Abraham and his faith.
Wiki-image God stopping Abraham at the Sacrifice of Isaac and of the Transfiguration are in the public domain in the U.S.

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