Second Sunday of Lent, Year B

Published: March 1, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during confirmation Masses at Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock on Saturday, Feb. 28 and Holy Redeemer Church in El Dorado on Sunday, March 1.

Bishop Taylor

In today's first reading God asks Abraham to take what he loves the most and offer it up to him. The conviction that underlies this story is horrible: that God wanted Abraham to kill his son. So it is worth remembering that in the Bible God often uses shocking events to shake us out of our complacency and get us to start asking questions.

And if we look deeper we see that Isaac was more than just Abraham's son in the usual sense. In those days, people had no concept of an afterlife as we think of it. For them, personal existence ended at death but you could live on in your children ... and so if you had no children, you had no hope of life beyond the grave. That is why childlessness was viewed as such a curse ... and why God's earlier promise that Sarah would bear a son in her old age meant so much more to them than it would have meant today.

Through Isaac they would be able to live on. And now God asks Abraham to give up all hope of life beyond the grave — to trust him that much. That's the faith of Abraham and it is precisely in putting all his hopes and trust in God that he gives God the glory, even when doing so left his own future so much in doubt — at best. In response, not only did God intervene to spare Isaac, he promised that Abraham would live on not just through one son, but rather through descendents more numerous than the stars of heaven, in whom all the nations of earth will find blessing — including us 3,700 years later. All because he was willing to put all his hope and trust in God.

Even more so than Abraham, it was precisely in putting all his hope and trust in his heavenly Father that Jesus gives God the glory.

In today's Gospel we have the same thing. Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured in glory and hear a voice declare "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." And what is Jesus saying to which they should be listening? That he will sacrifice his life for us, like Abraham almost did with Isaac, and in so doing will win for us life beyond the grave ... but they shouldn't speak of this until he has in fact risen from the dead. Even more so than Abraham, it was precisely in putting all his hope and trust in his heavenly Father that Jesus gives God the glory.

How about you and me? There comes a time in each of our lives when God asks us to put far more trust in him than we could ever have imagined, usually when we have to face something that we find extremely difficult and threatening. When this happens we can easily think we've suffered some great injustice because it hurts so much — and maybe we even have.

The unspeakably bitter experience of losing a son or a daughter like Abraham almost did, especially when the death seemed so senseless. Or a bitter divorce when you had sacrificed so much to try to save the marriage. And countless other heartaches that can just eat us up on the inside and leave us bitter and angry and deeply hurt. Or we can ask God to give us the faith of Abraham, thereby enabling us to finally let loose of what we love the most and simply put it in God's hands.

And the faith of Jesus, because it is precisely in putting all our hope and trust in the Lord that we give God the glory ... and at the same time, find peace.