Saturday, February 28, 2015

Second Sunday of Lent : Homily / Sermon

‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ (Mark 9:7) It can sometimes be very difficult to know how to understand Scripture. On the one hand we may come across those who tell us that the Catholic Church is false and corrupt, because it puts itself above the Bible, the word of God - which they say is “inerrant” (infallible) truth. And on the other hand there are those who have no faith at all and who claim that stories from Scripture such as that in our first reading, the (so-called) Sacrifice of Isaac, are hideous and cruel and show that the Bible has no relevance to the world today. The Catholic Church has always steered a middle course, guided by the central beliefs of our faith, by the our traditions and by sound learning and reason. Scripture, the Church teaches, is the very source of our understanding of God and of his showing of himself to us. Most importantly of all, it is Scripture which presents to us with the Word of God - not ink on paper, but the Living Word, who became flesh and dwelt amongst us. So all Scripture must be understood as pointing to Christ and illuminating him, and no verse or story in scripture can be understood alone, apart from the rest, and apart from Christ. Our very mass makes this clear - all other readings lead up to the Gospel, so while we sit for them, we stand to hear Gospel. And todays readings are a perfect of example or how we must read Scripture - in the light of Christ, in communion with the Church. Take this story in the Old Testament. On the face of it, on its own, this is indeed an horrific story. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, and Abraham, out of blind faith, almost carries out the order. Only at the last minute does God pull back hold Abraham’s hand. Is this the sort of thing God does? Well, we would find it hard to say yes. But when we read this story in the light of Christ, and particularly in the light of the Gospel, our eyes are opened.
The Gospel reading also tells us about a mountain, a Father, a Son, a Sacrifice, and a Lamb. And this time the Father is God himself. On the first mountain faith is clear, but the will of God is not. God rescues, and gifts a promise from a sorry situation. And on the second mountain the voice of God speaks clearly and his Glory is revealed. In the first reading Abraham is blessed not because of the action he did not carry out, but because of his utter devotion to God. In the ancient world, even more than today, family was everything. The clan, kith and kin, the succession, this was at the heart of the fabric of society. Abraham realised that faith in God is greater even than this. And in the Gospel we hear that the sacrifice is not the sacrifice of an unwilling son, but the gift of God himself, a willing Son. Just as in the Old Testament, God replaces the brutality of human sacrifice with the sacrifice of a Ram, so in Christ it is the Lamb of God, who takes our sins upon himself. The Gospel is shadowed by the Old Story. The Old Story hints at the Gospel. And all becomes clear in Christ. The Gospel makes clear, in showing us a glimpse of Glory before Christ heads on the road to Jerusalmen where he will give himself in Sacrifice for us all, that the Divine Sacrifice is, at the end of it all, not about violence, but about love. It is not about taking a life, but about giving life. It is not about blind faith, but about the hope of resurrection, the resurrection of the One clearly seen in all his glory. The Divine Word lives for ever, not in pen and paper, but in body and blood, in the lives of his people, in the faith of the Church. * ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ (Mark 9:7)*

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