2018-02-25, 2nd Lent B, “Mother May I?”

Homily 02-25-18
2nd Sunday Lent, Cycle B
Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10

(Scriptures included after homily)

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When I was a kid we used to play a game called “Mother may I,” where one of us kids, as the Mother, would yell out commands to the others, at the opposite end of a long hallway, as they tried to slowly approach their commander.

If their response to Mother’s command did not begin with the words, “Mother may I?,” then they forfeited their chance to move ahead.

If they did not obediently follow mother’s command, to the letter, they would have to go all the way back to the starting line.

And even if they responded with “Mother may I,” mother still had the option of answering “Yes, you may,” or “No, you may not,” depending on her mood, or the sincerity of their response.   (You see, mother always got the last word!)

Sometimes mother’s command might have been outrageously wonderful, like, “Susie take ten, giant steps forward,” or absolutely horrendous, like, “Billy, take three steps back.”  And in their excitement or dread, they would hear mother’s response to their “Mother may I?” as simply, “NO you may not, I was just kidding!”  Talk about disappointment or relief!

You see, God’s “Just kidding!” to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, was one of those “collapse on the floor in relief” moments.  And this time, it was all too scary, it was all too real, to be just another kid’s game.

But, you know what?  When we think about the psychology of that simple kid’s game from 60-years ago, we come to realize how it actually taught some pretty good lessons in Leadership and Teamwork.  How it taught us little kids Listening skills and Strategy.  How it taught the Consequence of disobedience.

And, most importantly, how it taught Courtesy, Respect and  Obedience, because the players all knew that the nicer they were to Mother and to one another, the greater chance they had of winning the game.  And that might have even meant, offering a “Thank you mother,” after getting a command to take a couple of steps backwards.

Isn’t it just like life!  Sometimes we seem to spend forever climbing a mountain, only to find disappointment when we finally get there.  And other times the prize is just knocking at our door, waiting for US to answer.

You see, Abraham spent years hanging onto a Promise by God that seemed, would never come true.  And when it finally did, in his old age, and Abraham won the prize of having his own, beloved son, by Sarah, there he found himself, commanded by God to take Isaac’s very life.

Two steps forward and
three steps back.

And yet it’s in this story of Abraham and Isaac, that we see the epitome of Obedience.  Obedience that was based, both on Abraham’s knowledge of God, and on his total ignorance of the actual outcome of his actions.  And yet he had complete trust in God.

We call that basis of decision making, Faith! A little knowledge, a little more ignorance, and a whole lot of Trust.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us how Abraham “reasoned, that God was able to raise (Isaac), even from the dead.” Heb 11:19  And as much as Abraham was “as good as dead,” in age, when he bore Isaac, Isaac was “as good as dead” to Abraham, before he ever, even picked up that knife.

And yet, there, in faith, Abraham received Isaac back, “as a symbol” to all of us, according to the Book of Hebrews.  . . . A symbol of God’s own sacrifice, of HIS – only begotten Son’s – actual death and resurrection, done in order to reveal to US the true reward for our Obedience and Faith – the reward of Eternal Life after mortal death.

It was a long, hard mountain that Abraham had to climb before he ever began to see any reward.

Peter, James and John also had a mountain to climb.  And the Lord was at their side.  And it didn’t matter why they were climbing, because they trusted Jesus!  They knew in their hearts, that He had a reason for that journey, and it had to be – a good one!

You know, sometimes we cannot see the tops of our mountains either: the challenge of parenting, the drudgery of a job, the discipline of obedience, without our natural response of anger or rebellion.

It all makes us wonder if any of it is really worth it.  But when we keep the Lord at our side, just like the Apostles; when we hold fast to our Faith, just like Abraham, then we will have ALL the strength and perseverance – we’ll ever need – to make it through.

St Paul tells us,
“If God is for us, who can be against us!”

And when we finally reach that pinnacle.  And find ourselves – covered by a “dark cloud” . . . two steps forward and three steps back, THAT’s when we just sit down and listen:

“This is my beloved Son.
Listen to Him!”

He IS in our Hearts – in the Spirit.

He IS in our Body (the “body” of His Church) – through His (The “body” of the Eucharist)!

And, “no kidding,” that’s TEN, Giant steps forward, and no looking back;
as we respond, with a very hardy:

“Thank you, Jesus

“Thank you, Father

“Thank you, Mother

 jmp 02-25-18

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Scripture Readings for the Mass of 02-25-18
Second Sunday of Lent, B

First Reading:  Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “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 on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.”

Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

Second Reading: Rom 8:31b-34

Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?  Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised – who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

Gospel:  Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.  Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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