Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Mar 15

One Like Us
Second Sunday of Lent B (01 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Look to how you hear paraphrases1 a prophet’s warning. The New Testament gave it an important place; it stresses our need to welcome Jesus and his saving work with faith and not solely with human logic. We may express its practice in two words: faithful listening. In scripture to listen is less about ears hearing—a body’s ability—and more about personal attention: to take in; to accept; to obey. It is God’s desire for us and all disciples. We heard God announce it on the mountain of Transfiguration: Listen to…my beloved Son. Today’s worship offers us models of listening: Abraham who listened faithfully; and Peter who did not. First, Abraham.

Abraham had responded in faith when he first met God: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.2 Those words began the story of Abraham. Abraham went. Year later when he was told to bind Isaac, Abraham told Isaac, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.”3 The lectionary omits that verse from the reading. That is sad because it helps us feel Abraham’s faith at work. It guides us not to be distracted from Abraham’s faithful listening. The verse leads us to anticipate God’s faithful intervention,“Do not lay your hand on the boy…Do not do the least thing to him.” God had told Abraham before Isaac was born, My covenant I will maintain with Isaac.4

I am not saying it was easy for Abraham. Abraham personified the Psalmist words, I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Faith does not override our humanity; faith heals and completes humanity. That is true when evidence before us suggests otherwise. God is faithful even when we, like Abraham, are sorely tested.

God’s fidelity uniquely entered our history in Jesus. Before Jesus and after his time on earth many believed God would work through a messiah to save God’s people from their oppressive rulers. During and after Jesus’ ministry the rulers remained the Romans. Peter acknowledged Jesus as God’s messiah.5 Jesus told him he would suffer and die before being raised; Peter would not accept a suffering messiah: he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him.6 

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain and…was transfigured before them. Did Jesus give Peter time to cool down and come around? If he did, Peter had not changed; he remained terrified. On the mountain, as the week before, Peter wanted to control Jesus, who told Peter and the others he would suffer. On the mountain Peter wanted to control and capture in three tents the glory he beheld. On the mountain he saw Jesus as no different from Moses or Elijah, most important men of God. The voice from the cloud not only told Peter and his two partners Jesus’ identity; it tells us and what we are to do: listen to Jesus not to Peter or those who hear and consider as we are quick to do. That word alonethey saw Jesus alone? It means only: only Jesus and his pattern of living, dying and rising lived by us let us learn God’s faithfulness.

Peter’s coming to faith and his faltering make him an important model as well as intercessor for us. Coming to faith means looking directly to Jesus and listening to him more attentively. Listening to Jesus means directing our attention to him in ways both personal and communal. Not only are we like Peter coming to faith and faltering at times. Jesus accompanies us so we may be transformed like Peter: he eventually lived faith as unwaveringly as did Abraham. They both pray for us on our faith journeys.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask Abraham and St. Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for enduring temptations like us; thank him for revealing his Father’s fidelity to us and the human race.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to let him be our pattern of discipleship: to shape us to live more for others as he did.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may daily live as true disciples of Jesus in a world that often distracts us from him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Isaiah 6.9. Note f. at the link does not include St. Paul’s mixed quotation at Romans 11.8 in which he included it.
  2. Genesis 12.1.
  3. Genesis 22.8.
  4. Genesis 17.21.
  5. Mark 8.29.
  6. Mark 8.31-33.


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