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For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 19 February 2016

2nd Sunday of Lent. Year C. 2016

 2nd. Sunday of Lent (C)
(Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36)

 My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us look closely at Abram/Abraham, our father in faith as we are told in the canon of Mass, because thereby we can learn to appreciate anew something of the wonderful goodness of our God.
We heard that God spoke to Abram saying:

I am the Lord, Who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land as a possession.  

Abram had been born and brought up as a believer in pagan gods; however, when the Lord God Yahweh called him, Abram -- hearing and dutifully listening -- in obedience left his home and patrimony and gave his life over into the hands of the hitherto unknown (to him) Lord Who yet knew him so intimately as to choose him for such a unique purpose and destiny.

Nevertheless, it seemed almost impossible to Abram that he personally, with his relatively small household and few retainers, could take possession of this whole land his ‘new’ Lord was now promising him, and so we read that, in his amazement at hearing what was beyond his understanding, Abram said:

Lord God, how will I know that I will possess it?

At this juncture we are about to glimpse something of the great goodness of our God condescending to encourage Abram by something with which he was quite familiar:

He said, ‘Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’  (Abram) brought all these to Him split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; the birds but he did not cut.    

Because Abram was born a Chaldean the Lord told him to make preparations for a Chaldean covenant ceremony: the animals called for were all those that Abram could  properly offer in sacrifice: the birds were not to be cut in half, and the Lord would make an oath to Abram passing between the two lines of the animal carcasses.

Although Abram, for his part, had already left the country of his birth in obedience to the Lord, nevertheless, his fidelity and trust had to be ultimately confirmed by further testing: the sacrificial animals were now prepared but the Lord did not appear; and vultures -- quickly becoming aware of the lines of carcasses -- began to make attempts to feed on them.

Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them away.

Time passed, and though Abram was able to prevent the vultures eating he was not able to frighten them completely away: they were content to watch and wait, ever ready to make fresh attacks.  With the sun declining and still no sign from the Lord, Abram became very weary from having to continually watch for and frighten off the vultures, and we are told that:

A great, dark dread descended upon him.

Abram was being tested to his limit, but not beyond it, for:

When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.

That is how Moses spoke of God in the book of Deuteronomy (4:24):

The LORD your God is a consuming fire.

Moreover God had reassured His chosen, as we read in the letter to the Hebrews:

When God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, “He swore by Himself,” and said, “ I will indeed bless you and multiply” you. (6:13s.)

And, as the Psalmist (132:11) learned to say:

The LORD swore an oath in truth; He will never turn back from it. 

Let us stop there and think, wonder, and admire.  Here we have the Lord God Who has taken up a simple pagan Abram/Abraham; Abram, however, is no ordinary man, because he had faith and commitment enough to hear and obey the Lord and leave all that he had thus far known -- his parental family and friends, his lands and his anticipated future -- and go off in blind obedience to the Lord Who was calling him.  He had travelled far in obedience, and now the Lord, in order to give Abraham confidence for the still distant future, made use of a covenant setting with which Abram was familiar.

Oh, the goodness of God!   Centuries later, He would still be the same compassionate and understanding Father, Who in order to give us confidence and strength, courage and hope, would establish with us a covenant in the way we could best understand and appreciate: sending His own Son as one of us, to offer Himself for us on the Cross of Calvary, and -- after dying on that Cross -- to rise again from the dead and ascend into heaven, assuring us thereby that whoever believed in Him and obeyed His word as Abram/Abraham had done, would themselves become, in Him, beloved of the Father.

In any sacrificial offering to God, the animals offered represented the human beings who gave them.  Man could not offer himself in sacrifice, man’s own life being too precious before God, but he could offer what was his livelihood and support, in place of himself he could offer the best of his possessions.  With Abram’s offering to God, all the different kinds of acceptable animals represented not only Abram/Abraham himself but also his many descendants promised by the Lord.  These descendants of Abraham would be attacked by the nations, as foreshadowed by the fact that:

Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses.

Abram, however, drove those birds of prey away signifying that later, Israel would be saved for Abraham’s sake, whose faith and obedience would continue to win protection for his people.  As we hear in Israel’s sacred songs:

The Lord remembered His sacred promise to Abraham His servant.   He brought His people out with joy, His chosen ones with shouts of triumph. He gave them the lands of the nations. (Psalm 105:42-44)

Moreover, Abram was himself being continuously and mysteriously conformed to the likeness of Jesus his Saviour by the Spirit.  For example, having given all, Abram had fallen wearily asleep in darkness, tested and tried to the full, but still waiting faithfully for the Lord of the covenant.  This was in the likeness of Jesus Himself, for Whom:

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’  (Mark 15:33-34)

Finally, He breathed His last with the words:

        It is finished!  (The work is completed, the covenant established!) (John 19:30)

People of God, try to appreciate, rejoice in, and trust, Jesus’ unfailing, covenanted, care for His Church foreshadowed here by Abraham’s millenia-long watching over his people Israel!!  We should also realize how important it is for us to renew our personal confidence in and relationship with Jesus in the Church, through a deepening awareness of the fact that the Spirit Who formed Jesus in the womb of Mary is constantly, in all the events and circumstances of our lives as disciples of Jesus, seeking and striving to form us in His likeness in Mother Church.

However, today we live in a society where, as St. Paul in our second reading says:

Many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction.  Their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame.  Their minds are occupied with earthly things.

In fact we sadly find ourselves becoming surrounded by very many who, even openly, have nothing but contempt for those ideals and aspirations so much loved and admired by all Christians:

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things  (Philippians 4:8);

and that can, indeed, be for some both a depressing experience and even a temptation to discouragement.

However, we know that those who delight in evil of all sorts will, without doubt, as St. Paul (Ephesians 5:6) told us, suffer for their sins:

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.  

And so it is most important for us today, as steadfastly faithful and confidently committed Catholics and Christians, to find comfort and strength for ourselves by positively rejoicing in the glory and goodness of Jesus, the God of Abraham and the Saviour of mankind.  Yes, let us rejoice in Him because even here on earth we -- with Peter, James and John in our Gospel reading – have, in our prayer and sacramental life, seen, experienced, some faint reflection of the heavenly glory of the Lord:

As Jesus was praying, His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is My chosen Son; listen to Him.’

There in a divine tableau we have the heavenly voice of the Father testifying to His beloved Son from the covering cloud of the Spirit’s presence; and on earth below, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, witnessing as servants to the One they had foretold and foreshadowed, the Lord and Saviour of us all.

This glory of the Lord will indeed descend -- for eternal live and salvation -- upon all those who as Jesus’ faithful disciples are part of His sacrificial offering to the Father, just as the torch of fire passed between the offerings of Abraham.

My dear friends, the Father has called us to Jesus Who has made us His own by the Gift of His Spirit, and by the Spirit we must follow Him as did Abraham, ‘our father in faith’.  And as Abraham followed the voice of the Lord through countries and lands that were often alien and antagonistic, looking forward to a reward he could not easily comprehend, so we too must follow Jesus faithfully through our life in this ever more alien world to a destiny beyond the power of human imagining, for it is no earthly fulfilment that is being prepared for us, but one that is divine:

For our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorious body.

People of God: our destiny is glorious as our God is great: the Father calls us, our Lord has prepared the way for us, and the Spirit is with us.  Let us, therefore, rejoice in Him and whole-heartedly take Paul’s exhortation to heart:

Stand firm in the Lord, beloved, stand firm.