Friday, February 27, 2015

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Second Sunday of Lent, B, March 1 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

What we hear in Genesis today is another true story
that didn’t actually happen.
Like so many other stories in our tradition,
this one was true for our ancestors in faith,
and it is still true for us today.
Abraham, living in a society that practices
ritual sacrifice of children to please the gods,
goes against the cultural norm
and refuses to kill his firstborn son.
Our ancestors in faith would have heard the meaning of this story
as the end of human sacrifice.
Some scholars conjecture that Abraham actually killed Isaac
and that later scribes changed the story
to teach the moral principle of respect for life.
Today, when we hear Genesis tell us
that “God put Abraham to the test,” we ask, “What test?”
Is that God? Is that what God does, how God acts?
Is it God who tells us to do violence, to shed blood,
just to see if we will obey?
No, we say.
That’s not a God we can believe in.
So what’s true for us here?
One truth revolves around Abraham’s action
in turning away from the violent cultural norm
toward what has become
the foundational principle of Catholic Social Teaching,
that human life is sacred
and that the dignity of the human person
is the basis of moral vision for all humankind.
Here at Holy Spirit we read the signs of our times,
just as Abraham and Sarah did,
just as Jesus urges us to do,
and we see environmental destruction
as an attack on human life and dignity,
the greatest moral issue of our time.
Today’s climate issue is connected to the killing of children,
as it was for Abraham and Sarah—
the innocent victims of war and poverty
and super storms and sex abuse and trafficking.
Today’s climate issue is connected to oppression,
as it was for Jesus—
no longer the oppression of the Roman Empire
but military and economic exploitation of the many by the few,
the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems for profit
by the rich and powerful.
In our Gospel we hear of the transfiguration of Jesus,
another true story that didn’t actually happen.
The Jesus Seminar scholars note
that the entire passage came out of Mark’s community.
Its meaning looks back to Jesus as his disciples remembered him:
a man whose aura was holy,
their friend who was transformed in prayer.
They remembered him
as the teacher of the law of justice—the new Moses—
and as the voice of prophecy—the new Elijah.
Just as Abraham discerned the voice of God on the mountain,
telling him to spare Isaac’s life,
so the disciples discern the voice of God on the mountain,
telling them to listen to Jesus.
Like the apostles, we don’t always see
the importance of an event at the time.
We don’t always understand at first,
but later we remember.
We get a glimpse of transcendence in a friend—
an understanding that causes us to pay attention—
and later we remember and ask ourselves what it means.
We’ll recall an aura, a snippet of a sentence, a dream.
A dozen years ago, when I was working at St. Martin de Porres,
Janice and Rob Thomas’ son Ryan would run up to the choir
while we were at coffee and doughnuts and play on the piano.
No sheet music. No training. He was three years old.
We thought he was cute.
Now he’s 16, guest soloist last Sunday with the Toledo Symphony.
We look back and remember,
and we tell the story of how that glimpse of talent
was shining even when he was a toddler.
When Malala Yousafzai was 11, she wrote an anonymous blog
about the importance of education for girls in Pakistan;
when she was 12 she began to speak publicly about it;
when she was 15 she was shot;
when she healed, she continued to speak.
She was asked why she continued to speak out
after the death-threats.
She said “I had really two options.
One was not to speak, and wait to be killed.
And the second was to speak up, and then be killed.
I chose the second one.”
And older folks—we see them at church,
or in the neighborhood, or at PTA meetings,
then something happens and our memories coalesce
and we see clearly the pattern of those earlier vignettes—
like our new Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson,
suddenly in the spotlight with people asking
where she gets her compassion and wisdom
and calm demeanor.
Looking back, they remember
her determined trek through law school,
the wise administrative decisions in jobs she held,
the kind and gentle woman grounded in her Baptist faith.
Now she’s Mayor by tragic accident,
and people remember from before,
and understand why she’s so very capable now.
That’s the lesson for us today, the meaning in these readings:
we live, we work, we pray, we listen, we watch,
and from time to time along the way
we have experiences that lift us above the ordinary
and leave us transformed in some deep way.
We are compelled to take a stand
for justice, for peace, for life…
no matter what...
because, as Paul tells the Romans,
“If God is for us, who can be against?”

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturday, February 28, 4:30 p.m. at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sunday, March 1, 5:30 p.m. at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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