2 Sunday of Lent 2015 Robert VerEecke, S.J.

2nd Sunday of Lent 2015
Robert VerEecke, S.J.
Yesterday I celebrated the funeral liturgy for a parishioner who has a quite
unique relationship with the parish and the church. Mary Muse grew up in
the house that was our rectory and is now our parish offices. But when Mary
was growing up the house was right here where the church stands now. Just
think of it. The place where she lay to rest might have been the very place
where she laid herself to rest each night. I don’t know but there is something
about this story that captures my imagination as I hope it does yours. There
is something here about life, death and resurrection all in this one place.
Mary Beatty Muse was an extraordinary person. She was mother to 11
children, grandmother to 36 and great grandmother to 10. She was a
distinguished lawyer and judge. She accomplished so much in her life but
what she taught her large family, her friends and those who came to her for
compassion and justice was that genuine love knows no limits. Love knows
no limits.
I imagine you know people like Mary, people who love in a way that does
not count the cost. Can you think of someone who has shown what selfless,
limitless love is? A parent, a friend, a teacher? If you think of that person
and their capacity for love, you will have had a glimpse of the face of God.
Yes, that person has been revealing to you the essence of God, who is love.
That’s what our scriptures invite us into today. They invite us to reflect
deeply on God’s limitless love for us in Jesus Christ. As St Paul says: if God
is for us, who can be against? God who did not spare his only son but
handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else
along with him?
And in the Gospel story of the Transfiguration, the disciples who usually
only get a glimpse of the divine life in Jesus, get blown away by the essence
of the Father’s love for him as that love literally transforms, transfigures him
so that all that can be seen is a blinding light and all that can be heard is a
voice that says: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him”. Just for a few
moments, the disciples are given to see this divine radiance of love itself
shining out from Jesus.
But there is a cloud that casts a shadow in today’s liturgy. It is the first
reading from Genesis, the Sacrifice of Abraham, the slaughter of Isaac. How
terrifying is this? Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love….
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust. How could God desire such an
offering, such a violent act? What kind of God would be so cruel? And why
wouldn’t Abraham say no? If you need a sacrifice, take my life, not that of
my Son.
There are some good, if not totally satisfying answers to these questions.
(Read Fr J.A.’s homily online for some in-depth answers.) Briefly, he
mentions how the name of the God who demands the sacrifice is a different
name from the one who stops Abraham from killing, suggesting that the true
nature of God is not one who seeks this kind of sacrifice. Can it be that the
“god” who demands the sacrifice is no God at all, but a false God, made in
the image and likeness not of God who is good but of humans who can so
easily opt for violence?
Another answer that you sometimes here is that God himself did not spare
his only son, his beloved but handed him over. God asks nothing less of
Abraham then he asks of himself.
But are there really any answers to these questions that calm our fears that
God really does ask for these kinds of sacrifices? In a world where violence
is sanctioned in the name of God, where beheadings in the name of religious
belief are becoming everyday occurrences and we are sickened by this kind
of violence, how can we hear this story which is part of Muslim, Jewish and
Christian scriptures and not wonder why? Why do we keep reading these
texts that promote an image of God who is so demanding, cruel and who
encourages violence? The answer may be that we want our own human
tendency toward violence to be “sanctioned” by the image of a God who is
God who is heartless? That is not what the Hebrew scripture reveals in other
places where God is imaged as a mother who can never forget her children.
That is not what the Christian scriptures reveal about the heart of God who is
Jesus. Love without limits is what we believe and proclaim in Jesus Christ.