YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF LENT
THEME: At the mountain-too, faith gives way to vision.
BY: Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe
HOMILY: As a little boy, when I first heard the passage read in the first reading, the first question that was raised in my mind was whether God could tempt one to sin since Abraham would have been guilty of murder if he had sacrificed Isaac. I later grew up to understand this passage better bearing in mind the distinction between temptation and test. The transliterated Hebrew “nacah” is rendered in English as “to test or tempt”. Its transliterated Greek equivalent “peirasmos” also means “test or tempt”. The words “test and tempt” though similar are not exactly the same, the former is positive while the latter is negative. For this reason, exegetes recommend we look into the context to differentiate between the two meanings, bearing in mind that God only tests while Satan tempts. The goal of God’s tests is for us to prove our faith but the devil tempts to destroy our faith. St. James stresses this distinction when he says “consider it a great joy when tests of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance… (1 v.2-3) and “… God does not tempt anyone to sin” (1 v.13).
In Genesis 12, God tested Abraham to leave his father’s land for an unknown land. Abraham through his obedience demonstrated that he loved God more than his father’s land. In the first reading (Gen. 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18) as we saw today, God tested Abraham again to see how convinced and strong his faith was by asking him to sacrifice the son of promise. Abraham through his readiness to do that also demonstrated that he loved God more than his only son Isaac through whom God’s promise to make him a great nation would be actualized. Abraham was a man of great faith and his faith lead him to the mountain-top, a place of great encounter with God. It took Abraham three days to journey to the mountain-top at Moriah for the sacrifice and within this period Abraham never changed his mind for his faith remained firm.
Within this period of lent, the Church is inviting us to journey with Her in faith to the mountain-top at Calvary where She will meet with Her crucified Spouse to re-enact that great sacrifice that has redeemed the world. We the members are also required to offer our individual sacrifices for our own salvation. That is why the Church teaches us today how to offer a good sacrifice to God through the example of Abraham in the first reading. Our first sacrifice should be to obey God without reservations no matter how much it costs us just as Abraham did without considering how precious Isaac was to him. As the Church urges us to fast, pray and do works of charity, are we ready to obey? We must also learn to let go for God’s sake that which we consider very precious to us, that we might become very precious to God through our obedience. As Abraham was willing to let Isaac go, are we willing to let our wealth go into works of charity, to let our strength go into works of mercy, to let our meals go to feed the hungry, to let our knees kneel before God pleading for mercy? We must also learn from the courage of Abraham to confront those things we consider difficult, especially in our spiritual lives. Perhaps, you may have been struggling with a particular sin but do not have the courage to drop it, it is time to believe that God will provide the grace to do that, just as he provided a ram for Abraham.
God wants you to make the first step with determination and he will come and take control. Remember not to entertain distractions and discouragements in your journey to the mountain-top, Abraham had to leave his servants at the foot of the mountain while he climbed with Isaac alone to avoid distractions. When we keep our faith strong in God and we are ready to make enormous sacrifices towards meeting Him at the mountain-top, then we can be sure that God will be on our side and as the second reading says (Romans 8:31-34), if God is on our side, nobody can be against us. Even when we make mistakes as humans, God would still forgive us since Christ has died to spare us and he stands at God’s right hand interceding for us. He will also give us all the graces we need because as the reading also says, he will not refuse us anything He can give.
That is why in the gospel reading (Mk. 9:2-10), we are presented with the image of what happens at the mountain-top when we eventually get there. The three disciples’ experience of the transfiguration is only a fore-taste of our own transfiguration when we shall experience the beatific vision at the mountain top (in heaven). This time, we shall not be mere observers but participants because the Bible says we shall be like Him when we see Him as He really is (cf. 1 John 3:2). Then we shall no longer ask for permission to build temporal tents but shall dwell in the mansion He has gone to prepare for us. We shall not see Moses and Elijah only but all the angels and Saints, even our family members and friends who have gone before us. Dearest brethren, within this period of lent, let us remain focused on our journey to the mountain-top, let us obey and sacrifice all we can so as to reach there at Easter and beyond, for at the mountain-top, our faith will give way to vision.
God loves you.
Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe