2ND SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B ON FEBRUARY 28, 2021 (R. 1: Genesis 22: 1- 2, 9a, 10- 13, 15- 18; Psalm 116: 10, 15, 16- 17, 18- 19; R. 2: Romans 8: 31b- 34; Gospel: Mark 9: 2- 10)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
I HAVE SEEN IT BEFORE!
You remember the story I shared with you some time ago about my first experience of Super Bowl? It was Super Bowl Sunday, the 4thof February 2018. The game was between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. The Eagles won by 41 to 33. This win was very special for the Eagles because they were playing against the defending Champions.
The first mistake I made on that day was to pay a pastoral visit to a family that was watching the game on the TV screen. When I first arrived, I noticed that every attention in the room was on the TV Screen. It took some special grace for the family to acknowledge my presence. I said to myself, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” I decided to join them hoping that I would learn something about the game, and perhaps, pick some interest in American Football. My hosts were fans of the Eagles. After a few minutes, I found it difficult to decide on whether to focus on the screen or on those in the room. I noticed that at some points, there were more actions in the room than on the screen. Some of my friends in the room were raising their hands as if they were catching or throwing an imaginary ball. They were all anxious and tensed up. The lady who sat next to me had a good control of her hands but her right leg was restless. She kept kicking an imaginary ball from time to time. When I saw how close I was to her, I made as if I went to the bathroom, I came back and took a different seat, far away from her, as if I forgot where I was sitting. The truth of the matter is that when I saw how she kept kicking an imaginary ball out of anxiety, I feared that she might soon mistake me for the ball, and I wondered the explanation I would give to the other priests in the rectory if I returned injuries.
Towards the end of the game, even though the Eagles were ahead, there was a justifiable fear of Tom Brady (the quarterback of the Patriots). From his track records, they knew he could bring his team to a tie. But at the end of the day, they were unable to score on their final possession of the ball to take the game to overtime and win the game as they had done in the past. And so, it was a day of victory for the Eagles and their fans.
The next Sunday, I visited the same family. When I arrived, I noticed that they were watching the same game; it was recorded from the previous Sunday. It was a different atmosphere this time around. Everybody was very relaxed. The same lady I ran away from the previous Sunday had a bottle of bear and popcorn by her rocking chair. I asked her why she was so relaxed this time, she smiled and said, “Father, I have seen it before, I know how it ended, my team won the game.” At a point, Tom Brady took possession of the ball and I screamed, “Tom Terrific again…” but the lady in the room laughed and said, “Father, relax, Tom Brady can keep the ball until tomorrow, it doesn’t matter, I know how it ended; I have seen it before, my team won.”
My Dearly Beloved in Christ, today’s readings bring to mind the age old question of “Where is God when bad things happen to good people?” In the first reading, we have the story of the sacrifice of Abraham. Going through the story, one might be wondering why God should permit such evil. Considering how long Abraham and Sarah waited to have a son, it sounds horrible to think of God as demanding for the life of the little boy, Isaac. Imagine how tensed-up one might be until the point of Abraham lifting his knife to cut the boy’s throat. Someone might scream, “God! Where are you?” God, on His part (using human terms) would be on His rocking chair like my friend on the Second Sunday saying, “Relax, I have seen it before, I know how it ended, the boy will not be killed, a ram will be provided to take his place.”
In the Gospel passage, we have the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This came as a preparation for the difficult days ahead. This came as a preview of what will come after the cross. When Jesus faced his agony at Gethsemane, he prayed for the cup to pass him by, but his Father must have assured him, “Relax, my Son, I have seen it before, I know how it ended, remember the preview at the Transfiguration.” Then Jesus said, “…not my will, but your will be done.” When he got to the cross, he felt abandoned by his Father and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” His Father must have reminded him of the preview from the Transfiguration and said, “Relax, I have seen it before, I know how it ended, after the cross comes the glory”, then he commended his spirit into the hands of his Father.
My dearly beloved in Christ, as we enter the second week of Lent, I have no idea what your story has been like. Perhaps, you are a victim of constant persecution. Maybe the truth you stand for is winning you a lot of enemies. Maybe those in authority or those who are close to the corridors of power are using you to flex their muscles. Maybe you have been sincerely battling some temptations. Maybe your prayers seem to be falling on deaf ears. It is even possible that today is the ultimatum you have given to God. Maybe you have asked many times, “God, where are you? Why me? Why now?” Before you give up on God and yourself; before you submit to the philosophy of “If you can’t beat them, join them”, God is saying to you, “Relax, my child. I have seen it before. I know the end from the beginning. I have the final victory waiting for you at the end of the game, so do not run away before the game is over.” Like He said to Jeremiah (cf. 1:5ff), He knew you before you were born and has made provisions for you to the end. Remember, sometimes God calms the storm, other times He lets the storm and calms His child. St. Paul assures us in today’s second reading that if God is for us, no one, nothing can be against us. In the midst of afflictions, God says to us, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10).