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The Test Of Obedience

Second Sunday of Lent (B)

Scripture Readings: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalms 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10

My dear encountered couples:

All of us are familiar with a test. A test is a critical examination or evaluation. Today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis states that “God put Abraham to the test”. When we hear that we automatically conclude that God presented Abraham with something that needed to be passed, right?

What was this “something”? Well, God tested Abraham’s obedience. How was this done? We all know the story: God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his only son. If Abraham obeyed God, he would pass the test. If he did not obey God, he would fail the test.

Now, think for a moment. What kind of God is this? What kind of God would ask for human sacrifice in order to test a person’s obedience? This, certainly, is not the God we have come to know and worship, is it?

Well, this passage is not about God. God was not interested in human sacrifices. God did not want Abraham’s son Isaac; God wanted Abraham – totally. This story relates God’s request for Abraham’s obedience.

God often requested obedience from His people, and He often asks the difficult of us. It is not a test of our faith; it is a request of our own unconditional obedience.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good people, tells the story of his own son, who was born with Progeria, a rare disease which speeds up the aging process. The boy never grew beyond the size of a three-year-old and died when he was 14.

Kushner felt hurt, cheated and angry. He did not need this kind of test. He seemed to be like Abraham. God finally gave him the son he wanted, only to take his son away. In the course of time, Kushner came to see that God was not testing his faith. God was testing his obedience. God wanted to know how well he would care for his son during the 14 years of his illness.

Now, from whom does God request obedience today? Well, from all of US. God asks us to give up some of our security, some of our fun: the security we experience when we are in our own home, sitting in our favorite chair, watching the TV program we like the best; or the fun we experience when we are in the Mall enjoying the company of a few close friends. It is this warm, cozy feeling God requests of us. Give that away, God says, and meet new people in your in your work, and in your school, in your parish.

God asks us to give up prejudice that comes in many forms – racial, economic, religious, sexual, and those special ones – personal prejudice. God asks us to be obedient to his call in treating all people with equal human dignity. God asks for obedience when it comes to giving time to others to form community, to teach religion, to work on parish projects, and to volunteer for social services.

And sometimes, God requests obedience in giving up old ways. We may react on this because we know that the old way of doing something is the best way. And besides, why change an old practice? God, however, asks for our obedience in giving away the old in order to experience some of the new.

When we make our response, we are transfigured just as Abraham was. We move from one form of life to another form. When we give as God requests, we become more like God.

The transfiguration account found in Mark’s Gospel is the turning point for Jesus. If we look at it in the context of the whole Gospel, we find that before this incident, Mark tells us about Jesus’ teaching on suffering, death, and resurrection. Then Jesus tells us that authentic disciples take up their cross ad follow him.

After the transfiguration story, God asks the obedience of Jesus. Jesus, God’s only Son, His beloved, is asked to give up his life. And you know what? God wants us, too. He is not interested in a little of us. He wants all of us – young or old. He wants us to give ourselves to Him in complete trust and obedience.

When we obey God, we note that there is a great deal of sacrifice, a great deal of suffering and death involved. In the skit presented to us by our Life Teen group, obedience to God among our young is very difficult because it means giving up everything that is fun. “I’m a teen in my prime. I can’t just give up everything that’s fun. Can’t I wait until later?

When we give away our fun, our security, we suffer without it. If we give away our prejudices and all the “costly items” we hold so dear, we must die to them. And much sacrifices are involved as we attempt to give away old ways. If there is no giving away, however, there is no transfiguration, there is no obedience. So, transfiguration becomes fascinating and terrifying.

God was not interested in watching His Son die on a cross. But this was the only way he could teach us to be obedient. God was obedient with Jesus’ life. God asks no less of us. And when we respond to His requests of obedience, we discover transfiguration.

Do you remember Abraham’s answer to God’s request? It was one word. READY! Now listen carefully. God says: Mary, John, Margaret, Dan, Bob, Ed, Rita, take your security, your prejudices, your time, your old ways, and all that you love, and give them away obediently. What is our answer? Well, you’ve said it in your mind.



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