A Vision of Faith

Homily for March 12, 2017 (2nd Sunday of Lent)
Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9

Wayne Gretzky, considered one of the best hockey players of all time, was once asked what distinguished the good players from the great ones.  He responded: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is.  A great player plays where the puck is going to be.”  What separates the great from the good, Gretzky observed, is a different kind of vision, and our scripture readings this Sunday ask us to grow as people of vision.

Abraham’s encounter with God provides us with a vision of faith.  When God called him, he was enjoying the security of living in his father’s household and on the land of his ancestors.  Yet he was willing to go forth from there with little more than a promise (from a God he was just beginning to know) that one day his name would be great and he and his descendants would be blessed. He left what he knew and what was comfortable for something he couldn’t see—except with the eyes of faith.

Our psalmist gives us a vision of mercy.  He described God as trustworthy, kind, just and attentive to our needs.  Because God is so good, we can wait in patience and hope and place ourselves in God’s loving care.

In his encouragement of his fellow minister Timothy, Paul gives us a vision of mission.  Timothy was young and inexperienced, yet Paul entrusted him with the task of nurturing a community of faith that was only beginning to understand what it meant to be Christian in a culture in which a crucified Savior and Son of God was a scandal to some and ridiculous to others.  In the face of such opposition, Timothy needed to be ready to rely on God’s strength and to remember that he had been saved and called to a life of holiness in accordance with God’s own plan and grace.  In responding to that call with courage, he would be sharing in the mission of Jesus, “who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

In his Transfiguration, Jesus provides his closest disciples with a comforting and hopeful vision of glory.  Only six days had passed since Peter’s bold confession that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus’ firm revelation of what being the Messiah would really mean:  persecution, suffering and death.  The disciples were unprepared for that and no doubt discouraged.  So, Jesus took his closest followers—Peter, James and John—and on this seventh day gave them a sort of Sabbath encounter with God, Moses and the prophets (represented by Elijah).  Just as at his baptism by John in the Jordan, a voice came from a cloud and proclaimed Jesus as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  But then it added three critical words: “listen to him.”

With that vision, as well as more open ears and hearts, the disciples could go forward with Jesus to Jerusalem, and even though they would falter and fail, they would ultimately succeed in proclaiming the gospel and calling others to follow him.   Because of their vision, we and the rest of the Church—well over a billion strong all over the world—are here today.  Our call is to follow that vision in our time and, in faith and hope, to share it with others. +