Second Sunday of Lent (B)
The Sacrifice of Isaac

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Abraham Sacrificing Isaac - by LA HIRE, Laurent de - from Musée Saint-Denis, Reims


Genisis 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18 (B)

God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!" "Ready!" 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!" "Yes, Lord," 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."


The Sacrifice of Isaac

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)We have a figure in the first reading of Abraham, our father in faith, the one who helps us understand what faith is really like. We remember the beginning of Abraham's life. Abraham was called to leave all the things he found familiar. He was an older man. He was comfortable. He had lots of good things going for him. God said, "I want you to leave everything you've got here and go on a journey with Me. I'm going to take you to a place that is even better than where you are now." Abraham responded by saying yes. This very unusual story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son does not reveal to us any of Abraham's feelings or emotions about what he has been asked to do. Abraham is just there, saying, "Yes. I'm ready. I'll do it." The story shows a man who has developed an enormous trust and faith in God. Whatever God asks, Abraham is ready to do. But the story is really about God, and much less about Abraham. It reveals the essence of how God really works. God needs something from us: Absolute, total trust - and a listening heart. A listening heart means you not only hear what God says, but you are willing to do whatever He asks. My conviction is that the only thing that brought Abraham to the place of total trust in God is that he began to see God as the One Who is for him. God is on Abraham's side. Saint Paul describes God's nature in the second reading, saying, "God is for us. If God is for us, who can be against us."

If God was willing to offer His only Son, if God the Son was willing to offer His very divm2.gif (52333 bytes) life for us, if They are willing to give up everything for us, then why wouldn't we trust that anything They ask for would be for our good? That's the key: Believing that the process God calls us to, with all of its strange turns and twists, with all of its pain and suffering and joy, is put together in a way that it all works for us. If God is for us, what could possibly be working against us that is big enough to thwart the plan? The story of Abraham is about a disposition God develops to get us to a place where we are radically open - even to the point of giving away the things in our lives that give us the most pleasure. In a way, Abraham was asked to give up his future. Isaac, his son, was his only heir. It's like God sometimes seems to be asking us to let go of what we want most right now. Maybe it feels like God is messing around with our future and that we aren't going to have one if we don't get what we think we need. To get to the disposition of being totally filled with trust is what Jesus was trying to accomplish in Peter, James, and John. It's what this season of Lent is trying to accomplish in every one of us. What I would like to share with you is that there is no way to be in that disposition of trust unless you have a sense, unless you have a glimpse of Who this God really is. There are many things we can put our trust in. There are many goals we can work toward in terms of finding security. And yet the older we get and the longer we live, it strikes me that we always find those things wanting. When we look at God and hear His voice, when we listen attentively to Who He is, we can sense a God Who is in charge of everything and Who has an incredible desire to take care of us. If we can believe that, if we can see that in a moment of insight, we can make radical choices such as the one Abraham was ready to make. We are willing to let go of something we need or that we think is the source of our happiness in order for something better to come into our lives. We then become blessed by whatever God is giving us.