Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.”
Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died–or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. and he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is surely one of the terrible stories of the Hebrew Scriptures! No explanation is given as to why God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. We who come as Christians to these texts can see the image of Jesus in this story—but many can only see the image of a jealous and possessive God.
Perhaps that image of God is not so bad! God is not a big human in the sky! God is not a policeman! But God is involved in our daily human existence and cares for us passionately! That is the message of the Hebrew Scriptures and that same image is given to us in Jesus Christ.
Do I sense this passionate concern of God for me? Not always! But I recognize that some humans really care for me a lot and I don’t always feel that either. Our faith needs good feelings but it also need to believe even when the feelings are not there. Sometimes when we are angry at someone we love for something stupid that they did, we could meditate and understand that the person is probably not feeling our love in that situation—even though we love them.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is about being willing to sacrifice that which is most dear to us for the sake of God. In our willingness to sacrifice all that is dear to us, we do become transfigured. Sometimes we tell ourselves: surely God cannot ask such and such of me! But God can ask it of us when it is the right thing to do to help us grow in divinity.
The real conflict is that most of us want to grow in the divine, but want to do it our own way—and so often there is no growth in the divine at all. We see huge examples of faith in people in history, often in people not even Christian but willing to give all to follow God.
Lent is a time to recognize our own brokenness, our stubbornness in doing things our own way and yet come into contact with our deepest desires to serve the Lord and to be transfigured in divinity.
May this Sunday open our hearts and our minds to the immense love of God and give us courage to place our lives in His hands.