Spirit in the City

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Mass Times

  Sacred Heart St. Paul's Kateri Centre
 Sunday 09:30 AM 11:00 AM 11:00 AM
 Monday - Friday 08:30 AM
11:30 AM*
 Saturday 09:30 AM  -

*  Except Mondays


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The purpose of our Lenten practices, PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING, is to discipline ourselves to listen to God and grow in obedience to whatever God is asking of us. “Listen to him.” Henri Nouwen, a great spiritual guide, says. Therein is the essence of spirituality: having our heart, mind, and ears spiritually tuned to hear what God is saying! Could we not begin each day with a time of quiet, praying Samuel’s simple prayer, “Speak Lord, your servant listens.” Then as our day progresses, we look for God and God’s message in the simple experiences of our day. “A spiritual life requires discipline”, Nouwen says, “because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear. When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives.”

Abraham left not only his homeland. Abraham left his earthly understanding behind, and took faith with him. Abraham’s trust in God enabled him to keep putting one foot in front of the other without the benefit of seeing or knowing where God might lead him. Through the centuries, Abraham’s faith, which was real and active, became the ideal against which his descendants measured their responsiveness to God.

According to an ancient Jewish legend, preserved and passed on by the rabbis, when Moses threw his staff into the Sea of Reeds, the waters did not divide immediately to leave a dry passage for the Israelites to escape from Egypt. The waters receded only when the first person jumped into the sea. Because they dared to believe in God’s promises, as Abraham did, Moses and the Israelites were delivered.

Today we hear the temptation of Abraham. Usually when we think of temptations we take a negative focus and consider our failures or how close we come to falling.  But as I mentioned last week, temptations can also be seen as a test that if successfully overcome, can strengthen someone to put up a better fight for the Lord. Remember the role of SATANS in the Persian Empire was TO TEST THE LOYALTY OF THE KING’S SUBJECTS.
What to make of one of the most shocking stories in the Bible? On the one hand scholars urge us to hear this story as a "test of faith." God did not want a human sacrifice; Scripture scholars suggest that the story was actually meant to discourage Israel from the child sacrifices carried out by their neighbors. The key lies in God's words to Abraham: "I know now how devoted you are to God." But what kind of God would subject a person to such a test? We hear nothing of Abraham's feelings; he almost mechanically took Isaac up the mountain and had the knife out and ready. Yet for the hearer the story is full of emotional tension, even horror. How can we read it impassively? In response to Abraham's faith God makes a promise--but by seeming to call for the offering of the child who embodied God's earlier promise. Why? How do you respond to these questions?
This is a story that strains any confidence we might have in a loving God. Why would a good and gracious God order Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, “your only one, whom you love,” the miracle child, the promise, the cherished gift?

Of course, Abraham is spared from carrying out the act by a heavenly angel of the Lord. But that doesn’t make the plot any less troubling. It seems almost wicked that God would play such games with us.

But the story makes plain that Abraham believes that God is trustworthy. The issue is Abraham’s state of mind: if he truly believes the word of God, then he knows with utter conviction that “God will provide.” That is not just a statement to quiet an inquisitive child. Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is neither moral compromise nor threatening destruction of his son. Why? Because he indeed believes that Isaac is God’s promise of future generations. In faith, Abraham is certain even without understanding that, “Even if he die, he shall live.”
If a person believes that God is good and will keep his promises, the test is not as cruel or irrational as first thought. What is more, this story concerns more than Isaac’s death. Will you or I ever hear God make that demand of us? The Scripture is not really talking about the test of Abraham but about the test that God will give to you! For that in fact is what it is! It is about the temptation.. the test of us all.
Each of us is required to make Abraham’s sacrifice.
Abraham would easily have placed his body on the altar. But it was the willing sacrifice of his own deepest hopes and ambitions, having trust that God would somehow make all things right, that was asked by God.

Let's concretize this with a modern day recreation of the Abraham story. A

young couple gets pregnant. They should be excited, but the timing is bad. They are both in college and had not planned on starting a family for another two or three years. They don't know how they are going to be able to continue their plans. Still, they are people who have a living faith in God. This is a bump along the road. They know that somehow or other God will provide for the family and they believe that God evidently had something different in mind for them than they had for themselves. Their baby is a child not just of their love but also of their faith. Brought into the world as a child of faith and raised as a child whose life reflects his parents' faith, the child becomes a person through whom many people find faith. Others learn to trust God.

We all must face the inevitability of letting go our most beloved person, task, accomplishment, joy. Everything dear to us, everything given to us by God is subject to death. We are invited to believe beyond the sacrifice of everything.
The essence of the story is this: Is God good? And will God keep his promises? Abraham is our father in faith because he embodies the final act of faith that all of us must make. We all face the sacrifice. We all stand before the frightening relinquishment of everything we hold most dear. “This is my beloved Son.” God’s “only begotten,” will go through our passages—even the passage of death. “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” The promise to us is life and life to the full. Do I believe as I climb a mountain of sacrifice? In the gospel, God command us to listen to the “beloved Son.” Like Abraham, we do not know in advance what this listening might ask of us nor how our perception of God’s will, might change. Only this kind of listening to God, leads us to the new life which Jesus’ transfiguration foreshadows.

God asked the impossible of him. Yet Abraham remembered God’s promise:
descendants numerous as the stars.

He took the knife in his hand and held tight to the promise.

O God, make his trust ours.

You are here: Sunday Homily LENT 2ND B MARCH 4 2012