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Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 22: 1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mark 9: 2-10

Saint John Baptist de LaSalle February 25, 2024

If you have never questioned the writings of the Old Testament, then you have never read it, at least not all of it. Parts of the Old Testament are hard to reconcile, with our belief in a loving God. For example, in one part, it demands death by stoning, for stealing or breaking the Sabbath. In the Book of Judges, Jephthah sacrifices his own daughter to fulfill a vow made to God. The Books of Joshua, Numbers, and Deuteronomy tell stories of genocide. In the Second Book of Kings, God sends a bear to consume boys who mock Elisha. Most of these passages are never read in Catholic Churches, however, the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son on Mount Moriah is read, and has always been read, even though it leaves us with a sense of horror.

How can God command that we kill someone, especially our own child? Sacrifice: “Your son Isaac, your only son, whom you love.” The story remains troubling, even to this day, but the early members of our Church could not but help see that this story is really about the suffering and death of Jesus. What God would not ultimately ask of us; God freely gives. God, our Father, sacrifices His Son, His only Son Jesus, the one whom He loves. Today this story of sacrifice is presented along with the story of the Transfiguration.

The Mount Moriah story begins in darkness and ends in light: God tests the faith of Abraham but stops his sacrifice. The Mount Tabor story of the Transfiguration opens in light but points to darkness: Jesus is transfigured, but only to prepare his disciples for his coming sacrifice. It does not matter if we are reflecting upon the Old or New Testament, we must understand that Scripture is not given to us so that we can answer every question we might have. Instead, God questions us in the Scriptures. What is it that we are meant to see, what is it that we cannot see, at least not yet?

There is no doubt that we are surrounded by evil, but evil is more easily recognized by the victims of evil, than by those who do evil. Evil blinds those who choose to do evil, for we do not see sin for what it is. When we do evil, we do not know it, because evil flies from the light. Only the one who stands outside of sin, the victim of evil, can see evil for what it truly is. We experience evil by refusing to allow ourselves to do it, or if we do it, by repenting of it. It is the innocent Isaac, who senses that something is wrong, on the way to Mount Moriah. “Father,” he said. “Yes, son,” replied. Isaac continued, “here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

In the same way, Jesus alone truly understands the evil he sees, while standing on Mount Tabor and gazing out upon Calvary coming. The sin that we have within us, emerges from us, and spreads outside ourselves. Thus, when we are angry, those around us grow angry, anger produces fear, and our fear is the sin that becomes our suffering. We are not meant to read the Scriptures and come away with smug answers. Scripture questions us; Scripture should challenge us. What are the evils in my life that I embrace by calling them necessary, good, regrettable yet required? Who are the victims of my evil? What can they see that I cannot? It is only when we ask these kinds of questions of ourselves, that we can repent of evil and begin to see evil for what it is. We can begin to see evil as only Jesus, our sinless victim saw it.

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