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Second Sunday of Lent, Year B
Homily. Readings: Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-9.

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Purple Stole and Gospel
Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-9

THEME OF THE READINGS
The most extraordinary faith of the Old Testament introduces us to the most extraordinary love of the New. Abrahamīs sacrifice of his son, Isaac, inspiring and admirable as it is (First Reading), is only a pale shadow of what it prefigures: Godīs sacrifice of his only-begotten Son (Second Reading). On Mount Tabor, God wanted to reveal to the leaders of the apostles Jesusī true identity, not only so that their faith could survive the scandal of the passion, but also so that they might understand the depth of his love for us (Gospel).

DOCTRINAL MESSAGE
Father. The liturgy is dominated today by two father – son relationships, both characterized by an inexpressibly great heroism. Each father loves his son like no one has ever loved. Abraham lives for his son Isaac; the inspired writer makes a point of underlining just how deeply he loves the young boy. It appears as an unsurpassable paternal love. Yet when God speaks of his Beloved Son, he is – as we know by faith, and theology which is "faith seeking understanding" – expressing a love that trumps all the paternal and maternal love in the history of the universe a million times over. And each of them is prepared to offer the beloved one in sacrifice: Abraham in the obedience of faith to a God whose mystery and whose thoughts surpass him; God the Father in obedience to his own faithful love for human creatures: and being the same love, it too is infinitely greater than the deepest and purest human love ever known.

…and son. Each son freely takes on himself the wood required for the sacrifice, and though neither of them could humanly wish to be the victim ("Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?" "Father, if it is possible, take this chalice away from me"), each one trusts in the love of a father who could never abandon him (the verses from Genesis with these details are omitted in todayīs Reading). Each one is an innocent victim. We know, though, that the innocence of the second, the Lamb of God, is of another order altogether; that he accepts his sacrifice with full knowledge of what awaits him; that he will continue trusting even in what seems to be the total absence of his Father and complete abandonment by him. And as Peter and his companions will learn on the mountain, he is not just a son of Abraham, but the only-begotten Son of the Almighty.

For the sake of us all. Moreover, for Jesus there will be no reprieve. God instructs Abraham to substitute a ram for Isaac, but Jesus himself is the Lamb who is substituted for all Godīs other sons and daughters: us. Under no obligation but that of love, "he did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all". After this, nothing else can ever really be called generous in the same sense. That he gives up the Son for whom his love is limitless means that his love is also limitless for those in whose favor the sacrifice is offered. This is what St Paul deduces, with the guarantees it represents.

Catechesis. Providence and the scandal of evil (272 – 73; 309 – 14); or the Fatherīs love (see catechesis for Fourth Sunday of Lent).

PASTORAL APPLICATIONS
The obedience of faith. Sometimes faith has to bow its head in uncomprehending obedience. This was certainly Abrahamīs case: what could he possibly make of Godīs command to sacrifice the son through whom God himself had pledged to make him the father of innumerable descendants? Yet obey he does, and this is what enables God to make visible for all time his exceedingly great love. What would have happened if Abraham had been like us, and taken the "logical" or "reasonable" path? If he had preferred to defend his "legitimate self-interests" instead of following Godīs strange paths? We should all try, certainly, to understand our faith as best we can. But faith calls first of all to obedience to Godīs plan and his will, whether we understand or not. If we only did what "made sense" to us, we would be our own little god.

Love overcomes evil. One thing we can never fathom is the existence of evil in its various forms. Why does God permit this, or that? Why does he remain silent in the face of injustices that "cry out to heaven"? How can he allow the suffering of so many innocent people? There is no one explanation for evil; the whole Christian mystery is a response to the mystery of evil (CCC 309), crowned by this one incontrovertible reality: "God did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us." We donīt know very much; we just know that God is for us, and so there is no person or power in heaven or on earth that can overcome us. Consequences: be sure that in the end love will prevail. The best thing you can do to alleviate suffering is to spread love around you. Young people: donīt go begging for the leftovers of love when you are already loved so infinitely by God himself.

 

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