Today’s homily is for 2nd Sunday of Lent, March 5, 2023, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here soon.
When I served as the Dean at Turlock Junior High, I remember a student writing in a brand new text book. Of course the student was sent to me. The boy had written his Instagram username in the margin and wrote “follow me.” He tried to say he had not written it…I said, “It’s your username.” Ugh. He admitted to writing and when I asked him why, he said, “Mr. Valgos, I just want to be somebody.” Isn’t that amazing…and sad? Having followers on Instagram that you don’t even know holds the promise of making us somebody.
The passage from our first reading today is what is commonly referred to as “the call of Abraham.” It begins chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis. The first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis set the stage for chapter 12. Chapters one and two deal with creation, chapter three they get kicked out of the garden…one rule…just the one! Chapter four Cain kills his brother, Abel. Chapter five is a genealogy that gets us from Adam and Eve to Noah, chapter six to ten is the great flood, and then chapter eleven is the tower of babel. Adam and Eve can’t follow one simple rule. Cain uses violence and kills his own brother. By the time of Noah, the whole world was filled with wickedness. And the people of Shinar had discovered the most amazing technology…kiln-fired bricks and mortar. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves.” Disobedience, violence, wickedness, and arrogant independence that says, “God, I don’t need you anymore.”
These are the characteristics of humanity in the first eleven chapters of Genesis; are we any different today? And the answer is, “yes!” we are different today, or can be. Chapter twelve introduces a man of great faith, Abraham. Abraham believed God, trusted God, and did God’s will. We heard, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”
Abraham’s greatness did not come from his own effort. His greatness came from making God number one in his life. Abraham had faith, he nurtured his faith, and leaned on his faith. He did what he was told to do. He trusted God, and God made him great. The whole Old Testament is the story of Abraham’s heritage! And the whole New Testament is the continuation of that story through Jesus, as Matthew says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The blessing of a hundred generations because Abraham allowed God to make his name great.
Young people, you want to be great? Have faith in God and follow him. Make God first place in your life. Instagram doesn’t make you great–God does. “Followers” don’t make you great–following Jesus does. Church events, LifeTeen, holy and wholesome youth retreats, prayer, Mass, the sacraments–these are the things that make us great, those things that bring us closer to God.
Adults in the room, education, career, wealth, property, possessions–they don’t make us great either–God does. We need to make God first place in our life too with the first fruits of our income, with supporting and participating in the life of the Church community, by being a catechism teacher, a lector or communion minister. We need to seriously consider whether God is calling us to the ordained life, as a priest or a deacon, or in service as a missionary or religious. In all these ways we follow God’s very clear instruction to Peter, James, and John. “This is my beloved son. Listen to him. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the flood, the Tower of Babel–all because they would not listen to him. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Twelve tribes of Israel, Mary, Jesus, and the Apostles–all because they did. Which team do you want to be on? Follow Him. He’s the one who makes us great–following, not followers.