Skip to content

Monthly Archives: February 2018

February 25, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


Listen



Abraham has had a long relationship with God. Abraham’s trust in God has been tested numerous times, and with every test his trust grows in God’s goodness and generosity. As Abraham looks back on his life, he can clearly see in every time of testing, God provided him what he needed.

Read chapters 12-22 of Genesis and notice the tests Abraham endures, But this last test, the 10th test according to Jewish scholars, is the most troubling.

For it is the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith, the greatest test of Abraham’s trust that God will provide. God asks him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the child in whom all the promises of God reside, Abraham’s only son, the apple of his eye, his beloved.

Now we wonder, what kind of God is this who commands a father to sacrifice his only son? What kind of God would make such a horrific request? In order to understand the power of this sacred story, we need to walk around in the world in which Abraham lives.

Abraham lives in a world where child sacrifice is common. Parents would sacrifice their children to the gods in order to appease them, in order to ensure a good harvest, in order to remain in the favor of the gods. Because this was thousands of years before the age of science, the ancient people did not understand the causes of drought and disease— they saw these happenings as punishment from the gods for something they, the people had done, to make the gods angry.

In order to be on the good side of the gods, the very best gift was required— the gift of their very own flesh, their very own child. Now we “enlightened” ones who live in the 21st century quickly condemn such barbaric behavior, but in the time of Abraham, it was the norm. It was the way people tried to find some measure of control in a world largely out of their control.

For they lived in a state of constant dread and anxiety. Even when the harvest was bountiful because of plentiful rain and sunshine, they thought they owed the gods something for this bounty, and the ultimate sacrifice, one of their children, would be a proper expression of gratitude.

So, either out of sense of having done something terribly wrong to offend the gods and thus cause a shortage of foodstuff, or out of a sense of gratitude for a good harvest, the ancient people were constantly trying to placate the gods of sun and rain, the earth and the sky. They were always anxious and fearful, believing in gods who took from them, who were angry and against them, who always had to be pleased, or else their wrath would fall upon the people.

Abraham thinks he, too, needs to pay the ultimate price to the God who has called him to be a “Father of a Great Nation”, who has vowed to give him the “Promised Land.” But in this sacred story, we discover an important truth about the God of Abraham— He is not against Abe, he is for Abe; he is not a God who takes life, but a God who gives life; he is not a vengeful, bloodthirsty god but a God of mercy.

But before the God of Abraham proves how he is different from the others gods, Isaac’s life hangs in the balance. The editors of our lectionary have omitted verses 3-8 in Chapter 22, which are an important part of this sacred story. On the 3rd day of their journey, Abraham spots Mt. Moriah. Then Abraham and Isaac leave the servants and begin to walk up the mountain, with Isaac carrying the wood for the holocaust and Abraham the knife and the fire. As they make their way to the mountain top, Isaac innocently asks: “Father, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” Abraham’s reply reveals his deep, abiding trust in the God, even while dread weighs him down: “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”

Abe’s deep abiding trust in the One who makes the Promises. That in the face of incomprehensible disaster, God has other ways of keeping His Promises. What kind of God would ask a father to sacrifice his son? Not the God of Abraham, not the God of Jesus Christ. Moreover, God blesses Abraham, and assures Abraham of something even more— that Abraham’s descendants will be a blessing for generations to come.

That includes you and me, since we are descendants of Abraham, for he is our Father in faith.

Such is the extravagant love of God for humankind, a love we see evident in his Son, Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father did not spare his only Son, but handed him over for us all. God provides for more than Abraham or we can even imagine.

This God of ours gives us, out of love, the very best he has to give, his only Son. Our Heavenly Father sees the people to whom he has given life and provided every good thing on the earth are lost and cannot find their way back home to him, the Provider of Life and giver of all good things. It is this God and Father who out of love hands over his Son, entrusting that which is most precious to Him to us, in order that we might know how much we are loved and might find our way, through the Son, back home to our Heavenly Father. Therefore, it is not we who are called to sacrifice what is most dear to us, but God who sacrifices what is most dear to God.

This is our God— a God who is for us, never against us. Even when we feel like God has turned against us during times of suffering or tragedy, the truth of the matter is that God is with us in His Son, who freely chooses to embrace all the suffering and tragedy of humanity. God-in-Christ does not shake his fist at us in anger, but as we look to the cross, opens his hands in self-giving love to all those who suffer, opens his arms from the cross on the Mount of Calvary to embrace all of humanity.

This is the great Good News that Jesus, the beloved son of the Father, announces to the world both in word and deed, by his life and death and resurrection: God is always for us. God is always on our side. God will provide everything we need. So, we are challenged by the Father to “listen to him”— to listen to Jesus.

The Son of God dies on a cross, the sinless one in place of us sinners, sacrificing his life that we might live as beloved sons and daughters of the Father. So we can give back to God what belongs to God.


2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


Listen



I am always struck by the large numbers of people who come to church on Ash Wednesday, as many if not more than the great celebrations of Christmas and Easter. The Mass is like any other regular Mass except for one thing—we are marked with ashes. Why do people come for what appears to be the reason of being marked with ashes?

I think deep within each person is the desire to know the truth of their existence, to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. To remember our life on this earth is a gift from God, but that it is a temporary gift, it does not last forever. Ash Wednesday brings us face to face with our own death and challenges us to look more closely at how we are spending our limited time here on this earth.

Ashes imprinted on our foreheads are a powerful reminder of this truth — our time on this planet is limited, and everything we think is so important and so essential eventually passes away.

But that is not the whole story of Ash Wednesday, nor of our life of faith, because these cold as death ashes are imprinted on our foreheads with the sign of the cross. By Jesus’ death on the cross, we need no longer fear death nor the temporary nature of our earthly existence. Jesus invites us to die with him, to let loose our grip on the things of this world in order to grip more firmly the eternal truth of his life-giving, death destroying love. The cross imbedded on our forehead reminds us that we are to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

In other words, we are to turn our lives toward Jesus in all things and in every way in order to discover the great good news of His saving love now, today.

The Holy Season of Lent reminds us we are called to do more than give up something. Rather, we are called to give ourselves more fully to Someone, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life and Death.

There are three traditional ways practiced by people of faith over centuries upon centuries to give ourselves more fully to Jesus, and thus through Him to God the Father. Jesus encourages his disciples to put these three into practice throughout their life. They are prayer, almsgiving and fasting. All three cause us to look more closely at how we are spending our short time on earth.

All of us need to go each day into the “desert of quiet” and spend some time listening and speaking with Jesus. One of the best ways to listen to Him is through His Holy Word in the Scriptures, especially in the Gospels. When we spend time in quiet with him each day, Jesus will bring to light areas of our life which he wants to heal, especially the resentments we carry with us that are like acid burning a hole in our soul. In fact, it’s only by prayer that we are able to give these hurts to God, to let go of them.

But prayer is not only personal, but also communal, so we set aside time every Sabbath to join our brothers and sisters in Christ in praising and thanking the Father for all He has done for us in Christ Jesus. To be nourished by the great gift of the Eucharist. The Risen Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as we give ourselves to Him.

By giving alms, which is love in action, we give ourselves to Jesus present in the least of our brothers and sisters. For whatsoever we do for them, Jesus tells us, we do for Him. Giving alms is more than giving of our money, but even more importantly giving of our time to reach out to touch the broken body of our Lord in those who suffer around us. So almsgiving can mean giving ourselves to Jesus by visiting those who are sick, or those who are in nursing homes or homebound, or those in prison behind bars. Almsgiving happens when we help out at Sr. BJ’s pantry for the homeless in downtown OKC or assist in organizing the food given to the Regional Food Bank, giving of our time to help out at Catholic Charities, or bringing canned food to Mass to be given to the local food pantry here in Mustang.

Fasting is more than simply eating less or giving up our favorite food or drink. Fasting means also giving up those habits which drain time out of our day, such as spending too much time on social media or vegging in front of the TV. Some people can sit down in front of their computer, open their Facebook page, and surf the net, and all of sudden an hour or two has disappeared from their day. What would happen if we spent that time this Lent interacting with family or friends, or using that time for prayer or to practice deeds of charity?

The resounding call of Lent is to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” In other words, it’s about conversion, about turning to the Lord Jesus and giving ourselves more fully to Him, who is the Resurrection and the Life.

He is the one who can lead us through the many “deaths” we experience while living on this earth. He is the One who leads us through our own bodily death to life everlasting.



Photo by unsplash-logoAhna Ziegler on Unsplash