Readings for 2nd Sunday of Lent: GN 22: 1-2, 3A, 10-13, 15-18; PS 118: 10, 15-19; ROM 8: 31B-34; MK 9: 2-10
We’re all still reeling from the St. Valentine’s massacre in Parkland, Florida.
The massacre itself represented a horrendous act of domestic terrorism tolerated by the NRA-sponsored policies of the two wings of the Money Party that rule our country.
It also exemplified an act of child sacrifice that Party not only condones, but in-practice advocates as it refuses to implement common-sense gun laws prohibiting the ownership of weapons of war by U.S. citizens.
For them, the right to own AR-15s is more important than the lives of our children and grandchildren. Guns are more important than kids’ lives. Or more accurately: the millions of dollars supplied to our politicians by the NRA is more important than anything.
That’s idolatry pure and simple. It’s worship of Baal and Moloch. Politicians like Donald Trump try to rationalize it. But their “logic” comes across as ludicrous and just plain stupid. For example, did you hear what President Trump’s solution to school shootings is? Arm the teachers! (He said that with a straight face!)
But do you know who’s not fooled by such stupidity?
Our nation’s children!
Last week all across the country, high school kids were out in the streets, speaking at town meetings, and confronting their senators and even the president with common sense and wisdom far beyond that of their completely unprincipled elders. Those so-called “leaders” were absolutely shamed by the eloquence of high schoolers more than 50 years younger than, for instance, “the leader of the free world.”
Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high, where the massacre took place, was the most impressive of all.
“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” she told the crowd. “We are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook, and it’s all going to be due to the tireless efforts of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most importantly the students.”
And the kids followed through. They marched on Washington. They confronted the President. Their outspoken questions left Florida Senator Marco Rubio speechless as he attempted to defend his acceptance of NRA campaign funds.
There’s no question about it. Our children are more effective leaders than the country’s elected officials. Our children are standing strong against child sacrifice.
Their stand highlights the contemporary relevance of today’s liturgy of the word as it presents us with the transfiguration stories of Abraham and Jesus of Nazareth.
First of all, consider the familiar narrative of Abraham and Isaac, its rejection of child sacrifice, and how it transfigured or transformed the roots of Jewish faith.
At first glance, the text seems to praise the great patriarch for his readiness to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart. It has God saying, “For now I know that your fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.” It’s as though Abraham’s readiness to do violence to his son were a unique proof of his faith.
Such understanding however is to forget that in ancient Mesopotamia it was required of all parents to sacrifice their firstborn sons. So despite the text’s claim, there would have been nothing remarkable about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Everyone in Abraham’s culture had that sort of primitive “faith.”
Scripture scholars conclude that the words just quoted (“For now I know that your fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.”) represent an editorial addition inserted centuries after the reported event, when people no longer remembered the ancient and universal requirement of tribal gods to sacrifice the first-born of family and flock.
The editors were priests and scribes in service to Israel’s royal family. They adjusted the Abraham story to suit their employers’ needs for patriotic cannon-fodder. This explains the addition of the words indicating God’s pleasure at parents’ willingness to sacrifice their children.
In contrast to that textual adjustment, and as originally told, the Abraham-Isaac tale was about the ancient patriarch’s transfigured understanding of God. It was about his discovery of Yahweh as the God of Life who prohibited rather than required child sacrifice. [Note that even in today’s English translation, it is “God” (meaning Baal, the biblical name denoting foreign idols) who gives Abraham the order to sacrifice his son. But it is “the Lord” (meaning Yahweh, the God of Abraham) who tells the patriarch to stay his hand.]
So, Abraham’s real merit is found not in his willingness to sacrifice his son, but in his unwillingness to do so. In that sense, Abraham in this instance is like Yahweh, the non-violent God of life, who (Abraham discovers) never endorses child sacrifice. That realization should have transfigured Abrahamic faiths forever. Unfortunately, it did not.
Jesus carries on and expands Abraham’s insight. He rejects violence of any type. He is the one who said: “love one another. Love your enemies. Forgive one another. Be compassionate. Be merciful. Seek God’s reign and God’s justice. Put away the sword. Rise and do not be afraid.”
Today’s gospel about Jesus’ “transfiguration” concludes with a voice directing us to “Listen to him.”
If Americans did, our world would indeed be transfigured. We would be transfigured – totally transformed. We would lay down our arms.
In other words, Abraham and Jesus are calling us away from idol-worship – away from sacrifices to Baal, Moloch, Money, Guns and the NRA.
In the context of the Valentine’s Massacre in Parkland, Florida, the spiritual icons of Judaism and Christianity are calling us to listen to our child-leaders like Emma Gonzalez.
“This is my beloved daughter,” we are being told. “Listen to her.”