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March 7, 2018

Bishop LaValley’s homily at the 2018 Rite of Election, Feb. 25 at St. Mary’s Cathedral

I was recently reading a commentary that reminded me of a familiar TV reality series, The Voice.  While thereRite of Election are various stages of the competition, a unique selling point is the “blind audition” in the opening round where the judges have their backs to the contestants.

If the judges are impressed by the quality of a contestant’s singing voice, they press a button and turn around in their swivel chairs to see who it is they have voted for. 

Once committed, the judge becomes the contestant’s coach, collaborating with the singer to win the competition and, of course, win a lucrative deal with a music company. 

What counts is not the contestant’s beauty or their ability to dance or look good, but simply the quality of their singing voice.  Of course, the judge’s ability to really listen is important.

The Voice figures prominently in today’s readings. In the first reading, the voice of God seems to be asking if not the impossible, then the inhuman.  Isaac - Abraham and Sarah’s only son - was the child God promised so that Abraham could become the founding father of a ‘great nation.’ 

Not only did God seem to be asking him to do something unimaginable, but He also seemed to be going back on that sacred promise.  With relief, we discover that in fact the point of the story is the very opposite to what it appears to be on the surface. Whereas perhaps human sacrifice was commonplace in the ancient Near East, what is revealed is that God does not want human sacrifice. 

By careful listening, Abraham’s understanding of God develops and grows, and his relationship of trust and faith in God deepens.

The voice of God takes center stage at the Transfiguration in our Gospel, affirming a truth that up to this point in Mark’s Gospel God had revealed only to Jesus Himself at His baptism: His identity as God’s own beloved Son - a truth that literally transfigures Jesus.

Finally, His disciples have come to the point where they are ready to hear this truth.  But their listening is only partial.  As Jesus goes down the mountain, He starts to help His disciples to understand the meaning of His Sonship: that He will be faithful and obedient to His Father, even to the point of having to give up His life.

Jesus trusts God’s faithfulness and ability to raise Him from the dead.  We know it is only after the resurrection that the disciples begin to really hear and appreciate what Jesus has been telling them.

As Christians, we believe that the Transfiguration is not merely a past event but an ongoing reality.  God’s voice is creative - God spoke and creation came into being. 

God’s voice is transformative: Jesus literally glowed as God affirmed Him as the Son. 

God’s voice continues to be at work in our world today, and in our lives.  But, like Abraham and the disciples, we need to learn how to listen and perceive at more than just a superficial level. 

That takes time and practice and commitment.  I pray that’s been part of your Lenten discipline:  setting time aside every day in prayer with Jesus. 

So much in our world today works against anything that takes time. We want, we demand things instantly - from God or anyone else - it’s all about instant gratification.

Persevere in your prayer, even when it seems unproductive.  Don’t lose patience.

When we listen in prayer - when we are able to step outside our own expectations and preconceptions and focus simply on God’s Voice, sort of like those judges on the TV show, we find that God’s voice continues to be creative and transformative.  By making time, each and every day, to quietly open ourselves to the presence of God, we make room for God to affirm our dignity as God’s beloved daughters and sons. 

And as that reality gradually seeps into our minds and hearts, we increasingly learn how to live out of that sacred space - to live as daughters and sons of God, not out of a sense of legal obedience to a command, but because that is who we know we really are at the core of our being. 

Being children of the loving Father is something that shines out from our lives - because we have learned to listen to the Voice.  Others experience the light, the joy of the Gospel through us.

With the help of your pastors and the parish RCIA team and staff, continue to make these forty days of Lent a privileged time of reflection and prayer with the God who has loved you into existence and Whose voice continues to call us, every day, to follow Him. 

On the day of our baptism, God smiled and calls us His “beloved.”  I’m sure this day, the Lord is smiling as He sees your joy-filled faces here this afternoon.  He is well-pleased!

As I thank you for coming to our St. Mary’s Cathedral to be counted among the elect, I want to thank your pastors and RCIA teams for their continuing prayers and support. 

Know of my continued prayers for each one of you as you continue your journey of faith.  May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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