Seeing Is Believing
Homily for February 25, 2018 (2nd Sunday of Lent)
Gen. 22:1-2, 10-13, 15-18; Ps. 116; Rom. 8:31-34; Mk. 9:2-10
We’ve all heard it said that “Seeing is believing.” That’s not just an anecdote or cliché. It’s rooted in science! Ninety percent of information sent to our brains is visual. Our brains process visual information thousands of times faster than text. People retain 80% of what they see, 20% of what they read, and only 10% of what they hear. Almost two-thirds of people are visual learners.
Our eyes, especially our eyes of faith, are our opportunity. Lent is a time for seeing with new eyes. By examining our consciences and practicing penance, we see ourselves as we really are. It’s not always pretty. The hard truth is, we are sinners—all of us. But the good news is that we are also children of God. Because we are God’s children and disciples of his Son, we are also blessed daily with the chance to see God’s mercy. We draw hope from the words of St. Paul in our second reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Abraham saw God’s mercy in the land of Moriah, literally “the place of seeing.” At a time when human sacrifice was a practice in various religions, Abraham heard God ask him to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a holocaust much like a bull or goat. Abraham got ready to do what God commanded, but it must have been an agonizing act of faith. After all, Isaac was the son he thought that he and his wife could never have. He was a gift that God had given to them, and now God seem to demand that they return that gift. How could that be? Abraham still stepped forth in faith, just as he did years before when he left the land of his ancestors for a place he did not know. God saw Abraham’s faith and stopped him from killing Isaac. Abraham, in turn, saw God’s mercy.
Peter, James and John saw God’s mercy in the transfiguration of Jesus on Horeb, where the Book of Deuteronomy said that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. This miraculous event took place just after Jesus told them and his other disciples that it was his destiny to suffer, die and rise again. It was a shocking prediction from the one for whom they had left everything. They needed some comfort and reassurance. Jesus gave it to them, appearing in glory between Moses and Elijah as the fulfillment of the Law and prophets. In the midst of their own sadness and anxiety, they also saw hope.
Lent is a time of introspection, yet that introspection is not an end in itself. Instead, we look inward and are converted in order to be drawn out of ourselves into lives of love and service. Year after year, what people see in us at Easter should be better than what they saw of us on Ash Wednesday.
We’ve all seen God’s love and mercy. The author of our Responsorial Psalm asked, “What return can I make to the Lord for his goodness to me?” His response: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all his people.” Let that be our response, too. +