Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Sacrifice of Abraham, Our Father in Faith

1. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b). These words of Saint Paul to the Romans give us great comfort. But I often wonder about Abraham our father in faith. In what did he take comfort in? Especially when God asked him to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22:1-18). Maybe it was not all that surprising a request. After all, many peoples throughout history have practiced human sacrifice. The prophets even condemned the Israelites themselves for sacrificing their children to the demon god Moloch. In this hemisphere, the Aztecs and others also practiced human sacrifice. And today, many people are willing to kill the unborn and the elderly for the sake of money or comfort or medical experimentation.
2. Anyway, what did Abraham think? God had promised him a son, and descendants as numerous as the sand at the seashore and the stars in the sky. Isaac was not even born until Abraham was 99 years old. Now Abraham is 111 and God asks him to sacrifice his son. Well, we do not know what he was thinking. We only know what he did. And that is, when God called him, Abraham answered, Here I am. And he stood ready to do God’s will, however hard it might have been.
3. But note that God did not require Abraham to go through with it. So many false gods have demanded the death of the innocent, but the True God did not require such a thing. But even though his hand was stayed, Abraham did sacrifice his son Isaac to the living and true God, because he would not withhold anything from God. Because of Abraham’s fidelity and trust, God swore that He would bless Abraham abundantly. And not just Abraham, but all of his descendants. But not just those either. God promised to bless the whole world, just because Abraham trusted in His word.
4. We need to think about that for a moment. Abraham obeyed God in one instance, and every person who ever lived afterward received a blessing. How often we consider that if we just got our way, everything would be okay. Or maybe we act out of fear, not wanting to obey God’s commands out of fear of not having enough money or enough property or enough friends. Many people who otherwise desire to live the Gospel think it is totally insane to be fruitful and have more than two children, even if it means surgery or taking powerful drugs.
5. But it’s not just that. Students cheat because they are afraid of the hard work that studying requires. People lie because they are afraid of what will happen if the truth is told. Some refuse to forgive because they are afraid of being hurt again if they let things go. Some people are afraid to go to confession because they are afraid to admit their sins out loud. Whether he was afraid or not, I cannot say (I'm, sure that he was), but when God called, Abraham said Here I am, and trusted God, and so everyone of us has been blessed.
6. The story of Abraham’s sacrifice is amazing enough by itself. Abraham had no idea of the resurrection, or anything about Jesus. When we consider his sacrifice in the light of Jesus Christ, it becomes even more amazing. For these events of long ago pre-figured the salvation won for us by the Son of God on the wood of the Cross. Isaac carried the wood up the mountain, Jesus would carry the wood of the cross up the hill of Calvary. The ram caught in the bramble was sacrificed in Isaac's place, we call Jesus The Lamb of God. There would come a time when God would offer His own Son in sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would beg His Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39). On the day of the crucifixion, on the hill of Calvary, there would be no word from above to stop the nails from being driven into Jesus’ hands. There would be no command to prevent the crown of thorns from being pushed onto His head, no suggestion even that Jesus should not be scourged, or that the lance ought not to be thrust into his side.
7. It was not the son of a creature but the Only Begotten Son of the Creator who was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins. And if Abraham’s obedience to God resulted in blessing for the entire world, how much more powerful is the obedience of the Son of God who offered Himself for our sake? And if God loves us so much as to offer His Son for our redemption, what do we have to fear? What is preventing us from repenting of our sins and turning to the Lord for forgiveness? How could we possibly doubt His love? What keeps us from obeying His word and instead preferring our own will?
8. Saint Paul said: Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). It is time to admit that we have sinned. It is time to ask God for forgiveness. It is time to go to Confession, to receive the Mercy which God desires to bestow on us. It is time to start anew doing good, so when God calls our name, we might say Here I am. And the whole world will be blessed if we do.

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