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When the Lord called to Abraham, what did he answer? Abraham answered, "Here I am Lord." Today's readings are amongst the most beautiful that we have in our Catholic Lectionary, and I want to use them to reflect on what we can learn from them about the three theological virtues namely: Faith, Hope and Love. Unlike moral virtues, Theological virtues cannot be acquired through a human effort. No, Theological virtues are a gift from God.
Let us start with Abraham, the Father of our Faith. A couple of chapters before today's, we read that God says to then "Abram": "Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly…you are to become the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations." When God made this covenant with Abraham, he was already of advanced age, and he had already left his home in Ur, and lived in Egypt, and Bethel and Ai, and other places. In other words, Abraham was old, his wife Sarah was old, they had traveled a lot and after much drama, they had finally had ONE son, Isaac. While Abraham had gone through a lot, his greatest test was yet to come. Today we read "God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!" "here I am!"" answered Abraham. "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust." What do you think was going through Abraham's mind when God asked him this? Abraham was obedient, but he was also human. I can imagine how much he struggled, but he listened to and obeyed God as he had done before. He went up to the mountain and it is there, at the last moment when we hear God telling him "Do not do the least thing to your son. I know now how devoted you are to God." Abraham is our Father in Faith, but what is the Faith of Abraham? Is it a fuzzy feeling and pastel color drawings? No, Abraham's Faith is based on listening to God and obeying His commands.
In our lives, we may find many times God's commands difficult, like forgiving someone who wrong us, or being the best Father or Mother to our Children especially when we are tired, or honoring our Father and Mother, or coming to Mass on Sundays, or keeping chaste according to our state in life, not watching improper things, not gossiping, etcetera. When we find it difficult to listen to God's commands and obeying Him, I suggest we pray even if it is but a little prayer asking for the gift of Faith, something like: "Lord I know you are God, I know you are the creator and ruler of the whole universe, please give me the gift of Faith and realize your will in my life."
Let us now transition now to the gospel where we heard Mark's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we read that Jesus "was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them." Try for a moment to imagine what was it like for Peter, James, and John to see Jesus in a dazzling white. We read that they were "terrified" but at the same time Peter says "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!" and he wanted to make three tents to stay there, "It is good that we are here." Think of those moments in life when God has shared His Love for us in a special way. Myself, I think of my wedding day, or the moment when for the first time I had each one of my children on my arms, or on special moments of prayer, such an immense joy that I wanted it to last forever. Such moments are gifts from God, in technical words we call them "consolations," and are experiences we have of God's majesty and Love in a very special way. And we want to stay there, we want them to last forever. God gives us these special moments, like he gave the transfiguration to the apostles, as means to increase their gift of Hope. When we are experiencing difficult moments, when we think that everything is going wrong, and we are tempted to think that it has always been bad, and that it will always be bad, say a simple prayer to God asking for the gift of Hope, something like "please oh Lord, help me to see your light in this moment of darkness," and pull out a memory of a consolation you received, and think of that moment, the sounds around you, the smells, the colors, the flavors, bring that moment back to your memory and remember that it has not always been bad and know that it will not always be bad. And next time when you have a moment of consolation, make a good file a good archive of it, of all that surrounds it, and cherish this moment, enjoy it as a gift that God is given to you to increase your Hope and to remember it.
But Saint Paul tells us: "the greatest of these is Love." What is the Love that we read about today? It is in a small line toward the end of the Gospel reading that says, "except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead." The gift of the transfiguration to the apostles was to increase their hope and to prepare them for the greatest gift of Love that has ever been given. However, the Love that they were about to receive was not in the form of a flimsy feeling, or butterflies in the stomach, nor was it to be pretty and consoling, no, the Love that they were going to receive and be present at, was the dying of Jesus on the cross. "There is no greater Love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" Jesus tells us in saint John's gospel. Are we willing to receive this Love that God is giving us? Do we know, and by this I do not mean have we heard about, but rather do you know that God Loves you?
The purpose of hope is to remind us of God's goodness and strengthen our Faith so we can go into the world and be a sign of God's love. My son reminded me when I was getting this homily ready that "we are not called to stay on the mountain of the transfiguration, we are called to live in this world." This means, we are called to let ourselves be Loved by God and then love others. The final prayer I invite us to make has no occasion, but we should say it all through our days, in our daily living, when at work, when caring for an ill person, when washing dishes, or folding clothes, or cooking, or at the office, or at the store, we should pray "Lord allow me receive your Love, the Love you have for me, so that I may be able to Love others while I fulfill your will in my life today."
Spanish Version (Word document)
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
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru