I'd like to start off with some encouraging news regarding our observance of meatless Fridays during Lent. Recent studies indicate that fish is very good for one's health. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Moreover, research suggests that the Omega-3 oil in fish can help ward off Alzheimer's disease, as well as aid those suffering from bipolar disorder. It appears that practice of eating fish in place of meat is a wise one. It will not only improve spiritual health, but physical health. I should also mention that even though the Church does not require meatless Fridays outside of Lent, it encourages that discipline. Finally, I want you to know that even though Archbishop Brunett has dispensed us from abstinence this Friday, because it is St. Patrick's Day, I still plan on eating fish...unless someone offers me corned beef and cabbage!
Now to the homily proper: Besides good food, many of you have in your homes a significant book: the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Next to the Bible, it is the most important book for a modern Catholic. The Catechism takes the teachings of Jesus and applies them to our world today.* You can also get the Catechism on a CD-Rom or from the Internet. If you do, you can look up any word to see how often and in what context it occurs. A while back I was curious to find out which person in the Old Testament was mentioned most often in the Catechism. I thought it would be Moses, the great liberator and lawgiver. But it was not him. My next guess was Isaiah, who has the longest prophetic book in the Old Testament. But it was not him. It turned out that the Old Testament personage most often mentioned in the Catechism is the one we heard about in our first reading: Abraham. The Catechism refers to him thirty-nine times. It makes sense because Abraham personifies a fundamental virtue: trust.
Today's Old Testament reading tells about Abraham’s amazing trust in God. After praying for decades that God would give him a son, his wife Sarah finally gave birth to Isaac. As you can imagine, Isaac was more precious to Abraham than all the land and sheep God had given him. His entire possessions meant less to him that the little finger of his son. Yet God tested his faith by asking him to do something that we have a hard time understanding. He asked him to take his only son up a hill, place him on a stone table on which he would empty out the boy's blood. Abraham did not understand why God required such a thing, but he made a great act of trust. As they climbed the hill, Abraham carried the fire and the knife - those things which could harm his child. On little Isaac’s back he tied the bundle of wood. When they arrived at the summit, the boy said, “Father, I see the altar; I see the fire and I see the knife; but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Although the question must have broken the old man's heart, Abraham did not waver in his faith, “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for sacrifice.”
God did provide. If we trust in God, he will sometimes answer our prayers in marvelous ways - as he did with Abraham. God sent an angel to stop his hand and when he untied his son, they saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. God gave an immediate answer, but a question still lingered in the air. For two thousand years, the children of Abraham would ask the same question as Isaac. It echoed down their history: “Where is the lamb for sacrifice?”
We have the answer in today’s Gospel. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain, a cloud lowered and they heard the same words spoken concerning Isaac: “This is my beloved son.” Like Isaac, they loaded wood on Jesus’ back and lead him up a hill. This time there would be no last minute rescue. It was not because God the Father could not sent an angel to save his Son. No, Jesus would provide the definitive answer to our question: “Where is the lamb of sacrifice?” The Lamb is Jesus himself. No animal, even a beautiful innocent lamb, has blood precious enough to remove sin. Jesus, God in human flesh, is the only one who can completely take away sins.
Abraham teaches us trust in God, no matter what. Jesus demonstrates that our trust will never be in vain. St. Paul expresses it this way: “If God is for us who can be against us?” Then he goes on to point out that the Father did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for our sake. If he did that, will he not give us everything else? When you think about it, everything else is already included in Jesus: healing, peace, forgiveness, life, power, joy.
Brothers and sisters, we are already at the Second Sunday of Lent. Only four weeks remain until Holy Week. Today Jesus invites us to ascend that mountain with him, to place in him our full trust.
*For an entertaining way to learn Chistian teaching, I recommend The Da Vinci Deception (100 Questions about the Facts and Fiction of The Da Vinci Code). Pastors can purchase this fine book in bulk for their congregations.
From Archives (Year B homilies for 2nd Sunday of Lent):
Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Capital Campaign, Cathedral Walk, on Forcing Pharmacists to Dispense "Emergency Contraception")
Mark Shea on the Statement of Principles:
Basic summary: "We belong to a party that has totally prostituted itself to the sacrament of abortion and the murder of the unborn. Stop looking at us like that. Just talk about something else for heaven's sake! We mean it! Stop looking at us like that! We're good Catholics!"
Fr. Frank Pavone invites priest to sign appeal to public officials
Mother Forgives Priest Son’s Turkish Murderer
From Dawn: How to Seriously Mess Up Your Daughter
Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on homily of Cardinal-designate William Levada at North American College
Samwise modeling new coat at Soup Supper:
my bulletin column
SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)
Parish Picture Album
40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)
Q&A about Planned Parenthood
(A child in Peru who needs your help)
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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
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