2nd Sunday of Lent 2006
Are you here? Of course you are here. I can see you out there. But are you here? What’s going on in your consciousness in the here and now? Are you listening to me? Have I caught your attention? Are you interested in hearing what I have to say? Did you hear the scriptures in the past few minutes. Did you hear anything that caught your attention that is staying in your mind, a word an image? Are you here or somewhere else? Are you on the golf course, rich? Are you planning the rest of the day? Are you worrying about someone or something in your life? Or all of the above? It is challenging for us human beings to be really present to the moment, to be “in the moment” , to be nowhere else, to want nothing else but “now”. It is that Self-emptying or mind emptying that you may know or have heard of from the practice of yoga, or centering prayer. And it is not easy. Minds like to wander. Thoughts arise from what seems to be nowhere. Is your mind wandering now? Or did I lose you from the beginning? I know that if I don’t captures your imagination in the first few sentences, I’ve probably lost you for the rest of the homily. Or maybe you’ll drift in and out. That’s what happens to me in listening. Oh God, is he still talking? The further away physically you are from the speaker, the less interest you will have. The closer you are, the better chance of being engaged. So are you here?
Here I am! Abraham says. God speaks. Abraham listens. Abraham’s “here I am” is not just a physical presence but an absolute availability to God in the moment. It would have to be, wouldn’t it? Otherwise we would hear Abraham saying, “You want me to what? You’ve got to be out of your mind, God” You gave me this son in my old age and now you are asking that I take his life as a sacrifical offering” I’ve been listening to comments on this scripture passage all week, from my prayer group, from the parish staff, from our parishioners and those of the Jesuit urban center at our day of prayer yesterday. No one can understand why God would “test” in such a way, or why Abraham would be so unquestioning, have such absolute obedience to the will of God that he would not enter into the kind of bartering for his beloved son’s life as he does at other times in the scriptures. And what about poor Isaac? Can you imagine the terror in this young boy’s eyes as he sees his father ready to tale his life? This story is a real attention getter. IT makes no sense. If we try to understand or rationalize this story we can go crazy. But is there something, some clue to understanding in Abraham’s “here I am”. Does he know God’s faithfulness, God’ eternal and timely presence that he is able to trust God in this moment of “not understanding”? IS that what we cannot see?
Are you still here? The story of the trnsfiguation is another “here I am “ story although those words are not spoken literally. Peter, James and John, are witnesses to a moment in the life of Jesus that is so filled with God’s presence that it obliterates past and future. There is only this moment, here and now when they are able to see the divine presence in Jesus. What is hidden comes to light. And they want to stay in the moment. They want to capture it, hold on to it. They don’t want the moment to end. And what about Jesus? Is it his “Here I am” at every moment of his life that speaks of his absolute availability for God and we hear of God’s absolute, unconditional availability to Jesus. “This is my beloved son, listen to him”
I know it is a challenge to be “here”, to be present in an absolute conditional way to anything. We’ve usually got too much going on. Sometimes we get there in the myriads ways in which we are called to love. Loving and being loved has a way of keeping us in the here and now. Maybe that is why we speak of love as eternal.
What we hear today is that love is intimately woven together with sacrifice. Anyone who has ever loved knows this. Perhaps Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac is not so difficult to understand if we see that intimate bond between father and son. Abraham is asked to give his life because his son’s life can not be separated from his own. His sacrifice of his son is a sacrifice of himself. And isn’t that what we hear about God as well. The gift of the beloved son and his sacrificial love on the cross comes from God’s own self-sacrifice in Jesus.
And here we are, ready to receive this gift of God’s self-sacrifice in Jesus in this Eucharist. What a gift! What an awesome treasure! How much we must be loved!