Sunday Sermon for March 1, 2015, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B
Readings: Gen 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 31b-34; Mk 9:2-10
In the second reading today St. Paul asks the question “If God is for us, who can be against us?” While we know that there are many people who are opposed to the teaching of the Church, the point St. Paul is making is not whether or not there are people who oppose us; rather, it is the point that nothing can come between us and God as long as our hearts remain fixed on Him. So, the real question we each have to ask is if we love God so much that our attention remains fixed on Him in such a way that nothing will be able to tear us away.
However, most of us, because of our human weakness, want some kind of a guarantee. In other words, before we are willing to give ourselves entirely to God, as we have been commanded to do, most of us would first ask if God loves us entirely. If He does, how do we know?
When we look at the first reading today we hear about Abraham taking his son, Isaac, the son of the Promise, up mount Moriah where Abraham is going to sacrifice his son to the Lord. Thankfully, God stops the process once Abraham has demonstrated that he would go through with the request. Having held back his love from God in the past, he is now going to be tested in the most severe manner possible. Does he really love God above everything and everyone else?
When Abraham demonstrates his priorities, God informs him that he will be greatly blessed and that all nations would be blessed in him. All of these blessings Abraham and his descendants would receive are due solely to the fact that Abraham obeyed God’s command and did not withhold his own beloved son.
God, of course, knew how much Abraham loved him, but Abraham did not know until it came to that critical moment where he had to act on what he proclaimed. For all those who read this story, it is made clear to us, also, just how much Abraham love God. Now we skip ahead to the Gospel where Moses and Elijah are talking to Jesus about His impending Passion. Once again, we would be able to look from the outside and see just how much Jesus loves His Father and, ultimately, how much God loves us.
In the same area where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, perhaps even on the same mountain, Jesus was sacrificed. Our question of how much God loves us was answered in the most extreme manner: He did not withhold His only begotten Son. Because God knew the extent of Abraham’s love, He intervened so that Isaac was not killed. Because humanity did not know the extent of God’s love for us, He did not intervene so that Jesus was saved. Instead, Jesus loved His own in this world and He loved them to the end, as St. John tells us.
As St. Paul reflected on this total expression of God’s love for us, he came to understand just how much God loves us. He rhetorically asked the Romans if God did not spare His only Son, do you think He will withhold anything else? Jesus is God and God is all in all. Therefore, if God has already given all, there is nothing less that He will hold back. So, if there is any question about how much God loves us, He has answered that question in a manner that anyone who has a child can understand. Parents sacrifice themselves for their children; parents to not sacrifice their children for someone else.
So, God has proven His love, Jesus has proven His love, now it is for us to accept that we are actually loved that much. Of course, it does not stop there. We have to ask ourselves, once again, how much we love God. St. Peter wanted to build tents for our Lord, Moses and Elijah. This was a great demonstration of the reverence and respect he had for these holy persons. However, God had a different idea. He wanted Peter and the others to listen to His Son. This does not imply merely sitting around and hearing what Jesus is saying. Rather, it means conforming ourselves to His teaching and living it out in our daily lives.
We see Jesus transfigured in the Gospel reading today. If we live according to His teaching, it is we who will be transformed. We will be changed to be like Jesus which means that we will love as He does, that is, with our whole heart and soul and strength. Then our love for God will be proven and nothing will be able to separate us from His love.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.