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 heartless. 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.