The Bible tells us that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a sign of his love.
That sounds horrible to our ears. Even if it is “just a test” on God’s part, it seems like a very mean one. Yet, this was very common at this time for people to sacrifice their first-born sons to the pagan gods.
In this story, the author rejects the traditional practice of human sacrifice in favor of animal sacrifice used by the Jews.
Despite its vividness, the drama of Isaac’s near-sacrifice takes a backseat to the main point: Abraham’s faith in God and his utter trust in God’s promises. Abraham with a heavy heart climbed the mountain with his son Isaac only to return with the realization that he would be blessed abundantly.
During Lent, we might feel that we are approaching a spiritual mountaintop. Perhaps, we are feeling a little better about ourselves as we use our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to get closer to God. We need to be cautious because going to the mountaintop means we will be tested there. Wherever we find ourselves, we can never be satisfied with where we are in our relationship with God.
Trusting in God means that we do not follow through on our feelings. When Abraham raised the knife to kill his only son, he was not acting out of feelings. In fact, he was going against his deepest feelings – feelings of love and tenderness for his only child. He was acting out of trust – trust in a God, who is love and compassion and who wants only what is good for us.
Father Ron Rolheiser tells this story: Several years ago, I sat with a friend who was trying to explain to me the reasons for his impending divorce. He was thirty-five years old, the father of three children, and had been married for nearly 10 years.
By all indications his marriage had not been a bad one; in fact, it had generally exhibited signs of considerable health. Moreover, he was a good-hearted and sincere person who would have been horrified to hear himself described as a womanizer, as unfaithful, or as irresponsible.
So, what happened? Quite simply he fell in love with someone else and now this new relationship was nullifying his marriage.
He said, “This new love is more important than everything else in my life, including my wife and kids. Not embracing it would be inhuman. I did not ask for this. It just happened! I know there are some awful consequences but this is what I have to do. I have no real choice now. I’m in love!”
If we buy that crazy kind of logic, we will lead lives filled with contradictions and confusion. Eventually, such living leads to nothing but chaos. Sometimes being true to yourself and your commitments means going against every emotion in your heart. So, whether we are feeling despair at what is happening in our world, or “on cloud nine” at having fallen in love with someone whom we cannot have, the answer is not just to follow our feelings.
We need to trust, and then to trust some more.
Having faith does not mean you will have no worries, or that you will not make mistakes, or that you and your loved ones will not fall victim to accidents, sicknesses, and misfortunes. What faith gives you is the assurance that God is good, that you can trust God, that God will not forget you, and that, despite any indication to the contrary, God is still in charge of this universe.
Maybe we feel like Mother Teresa who said, “I know God promises not to give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
Posted on Fri, March 13, 2015
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd