God Put Abraham to the Test by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
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.
Our first reading this week starts off: “God put Abraham to the test.” The book of Genesis teaches us that God asks Abraham to make the incomprehensible sacrifice of his only son.
“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.’” (Gen 22: 1-2)
On the surface, God’s request makes no rational sense. Isaac is the fulfillment of God’s promise to establish a new covenant with mankind. Even though Abraham and his wife, Sarah, are elderly and barren, God promises them that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
So, God sends them the great gift of Isaac in their old age. There is no apparent reason to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. Yet, we know that Abraham’s willingness to be completely obedient and do what God asked was very pleasing to God. God tested Abraham and found him worthy.
It is important to note that in the end, God spares Abraham from making the sacrifice of his son and provides a substitute. “Do not lay your hand on the boy. . . 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.”
The willingness of Abraham to offer up his young son came on the heels of another profound act of faith. The Lord asks Abraham to uproot himself and his whole family and to set out on a journey. God invites this elderly man whose large family is well entrenched in their homeland to pick up his life and get on the road. Additionally, God does not reveal where he is going.
This request of God also makes no rational sense. It requires a tremendous act of faith and trust. God has a plan and a purpose for Abraham that is not yet revealed. What God wants is radical faith in Him. These two great acts of faith – the willingness to get up and go to a foreign land with his whole retinue, and his willingness to sacrifice his only son – are the essence of why we traditionally call Abraham our “father in faith.”
Because of this trust in god, Abraham is a pillar of our Faith and a model to be imitated. Every so often, God sends other men and women into our lives to inspire us and encourage us to trust in Him with all our hearts.
There is a graduate student at Marymount who has developed a deep faith and trust in God, and is an inspiration to many of us on campus. He is confined to a wheelchair because he has spina bifida, a spinal cord birth defect that leaves those afflicted with it paralyzed in various ways. This young man is paralyzed from the waist down. He got involved with campus ministry in a variety of ways during his undergraduate years, beginning as a volunteer in our office.
This amazing young man has endured countless trails in his life, most of them connected with his condition. He has also had to endure the death of his father following a four year battle with cancer. Throughout these last five years his faith has become strong and deep.
He recently spoke to students at an event on campus about disabilities and faith. He explained that his belief in God and his acceptance of God’s love for him has made all the difference in the world to him. He has been strengthened to completely surrender his life to God and to trust that Our Lord has a special plan for his life.
While he still dreams about being able to walk one day, he said that his faith in God is the factor that has enabled him to be strong in the face of his challenges, generous with his time in service of others, patient with those around him who often misunderstand him, and hope-filled while embracing the cross of living with spina bifida. The faith of this young man is truly inspirational on so many levels.
This Lent, let us pray earnestly and ask God to deepen our faith in His love and His loving plans for us, especially when they do not make sense to us. Let us seek the grace to embrace our crosses and allow them to increase our virtue and be a channel of God’s strength. Let us find great inspiration in the lives of those around us and those who have gone before us like Abraham to be men and women of deep faith in Almighty God.
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