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Pastor's Letter 20210228 - 28 February 2021 - If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

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February 28th, 2021

Second Sunday of Lent

Today’s Theme:   “If God is for Us, Who can be Against us?”


The Transfiguration of Jesus

A Message from Father †Michael

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

The Sacrifice of Isaac

The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is strange—even shocking (Genesis 22: 1-18.)  What we find most disturbing about it is the image of God that comes across.  

We must try to understand that the story teaches us something very important.  In a very clever way, it sets out in the opposite direction to that in which it hopes to leave the listener.  To say that God approves of human sacrifice, and would even demand it, is quite puzzling.  Its object is to show the exact opposite—such sacrifice is abhorrent to God.

God’s request of Abraham and is so cruel and unjust we might be prompted to cry out, “STOP!  This is wrong!  This is terrible!”  We find it revolting that an elderly Abraham would be asked to kill his only son—especially considering the special burden of hope that lay on Isaac’s young shoulders, which was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore  (Genesis 17:2)  

At the time, Abraham was living among the Canaanites, who practiced human sacrifice. As a response to God, he agonizingly attempts to do what he thought God wanted of him.  His great faith was rewarded, and the story shows us that God meant to put an end to human sacrifice.  

Orthodox Jewish tradition teaches that this story was meant to show that anyone purporting to commit murder in God’s name is a liar!  

Down through the ages we find many instances of murder perpetrated in the name of God.  Even in our own day, people commit murder for religious beliefs, thinking they are honoring God by doing so:  As recently as October 1995, Jewish fundamentalist Yigal Amir murdered the prime minister of Israel,  Yitzhak Rabin; Palestinian Muslim fundamentalists recently have struck at Israel, murdering innocent men, women and children, as suicide bombers; In 1994, Paul Hill, a former Presbyterian minister, murdered a doctor and his bodyguard outside a Florida abortion clinic.  We can recall other examples of terror “in the name of Allah,” such as those on “9-11,” in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.  

Nowhere is it taught that God directs us to mete out “hurt for hurt,” “pain for pain,” or “life for life.”  Nonetheless, the pages of history are stained with blood spilled by people who see themselves as “God’s avengers.”  Kings and heads of state have murdered, claiming God’s authority and blessing on their dark deeds. One thing the story shows clearly is the depth of Abraham’s faith.  He was prepared to sacrifice what was dearest to him.  No wonder we call him “our father in faith.”

Jesus introduced the world to something a lot more challenging:  the idea of honoring God by giving our lives in the service of God and others.  God didn’t demand His life from Him—He gave it up freely…in the service of His brothers and sisters.    

God is on Our Side

Paul’s letter to the Romans shows us that since “God is on our side,” we can face anything (Romans 8: 31-34.)  Obviously linked to the First Reading, it shows the depth of God’s love for us.  God did not even spare His own Son, but gave Him up…for us.  Neither suffering, nor tragedy, nor death should separate us from the love of God, a love that we have seen in Christ’s example.  

Our problem is that whenever we run into trouble our faith fails us, and we think God has abandoned us.  But we must always remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  In times of weakness, He is our hope.  In the face of pain, all we have to do is abandon ourselves to His care.  

What Mount Tabor meant for Jesus

In today’s Gospel, three apostles of Jesus saw a glimpse of the glory that was His as the Son of God (Mark 9: 2-10.)  Having just begun His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus had been working mostly in Galilee.  Even there, an area in which He had been raised, He met much opposition from the religious leaders.  But in going to Jerusalem, He sensed that a violent death awaited Him there.  Naturally, He recoiled from such a fate.  So, to reflect on it, and pray about it, He climbed to the top of Mount Tabor.  

Jesus’ Transfiguration is an example of an “epiphany story,” common in ancient writing about holy people.  In such stories, the veil that separates the invisible world from the visible, and the future from the present, is removed for a moment, revealing the truth.  This is the earliest such story about Jesus, older even than the voice at His Baptism, or even the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi (ref: Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:16–17)

Myriad biblical scholars do not agree about what actually occurred on the mountain, but our faith teaches that chief significance of the event was to confirm Jesus’ course on earth: bringing the Old Law to fulfillment—in Himself— but it also benefited the apostles, as Mark emphasized.  In the transfigured Jesus they received a preview of the risen Lord.  Even so, they would not fully understand what they had seen until He had truly risen from the dead.

On the mountain, Moses represented the law; Elijah, the prophets.  Meanwhile, the transfigured Jesus was seen as bringing the law and the prophets together—into fulfillment.  

Scripture explains the experience on Mt. Tabor came at a very difficult time for Jesus—one of uncertainty, and fear of the future.  While there, He heard the marvelous words of God: “You are My beloved Son.” He felt Himself comforted and affirmed, knowing His Father was pleased with Him, and would give Him the strength to face a dark and threatening future.    

At times, life can become dark for all of us.  Many outside voices tell us, “You’re good, but only if you’re successful;” or, “You’re good, but only if you’re popular.”  We must remember, however, that this voice of God is subtle, and emanates from the Spirit of God within us. In order to “hear it,” we must make a concerted effort in the midst of all the cacophony of the world around us.  When we become practiced in our efforts of meditative prayer, we then might hear a small voice whisper to us, too: “You are My beloved son/daughter.”  This is the voice to which we need pay attention.  This voice affirms that we are God’s beloved children.  It is from this voice we gain the strength to live our lives by the light of His truth.

May God Richly Bless You!

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks…souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”  

~~ Mother Teresa: In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers” ~~

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/XZ0YegWbZH4 


Be Still.docx  

Edited by Father Michael
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