We all know this story of God demanding that Abraham offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. We wonder what kind of a God would ask for such a thing, ask a father to kill his only son. We have to remember we are talking about a very primitive stage in the development of religious belief. In order to placate God or plead with God or thank God people offered sacrifices – gifts – to God. Many times the gift offered was what was most important and most precious to the person offering the gift. There were times when that gift was a child, a son, a daughter. Human sacrifice was not unheard of in those days. So when God made this request of Abraham he was not shocked, confused for sure, but not shocked. Abraham would be confused because God made him a promise that through his only son Isaac Abraham would have descendents as numerous as the sands on the sea shore. Through Isaac his family name would continue til the end of time. This demand of God was in complete contradiction to this promise. Abraham still trusted that God would fulfill that promise no matter what and so he offered what God asked of him.
We hear in the story that God stayed the knife wielding hand of Abraham and God restated his former promise to him, “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore because you have obeyed my voice.”
Abraham became the father of all believers, the model of all those who trust in the presence, the fidelity and the love of God no matter how many circumstances in their lives tell them differently.
Our second reading tells of another Father, a Father who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all. God stopped the hand of Abraham from striking his son but God did not stop the hands of those who whipped His Son, God did not stop the hands of those who wove the cruel crown of thorns and pressed them down into His Son’s head, God did not stop the hands of those who slapped His Son’s face to humiliate and mock Him, God did not stop the hands of those who put a cross on His Son’s shoulders, God did not stop the hands of those who drove the nails through His Son’s hands and feet, God did not stop the hands of those who raised His Son up on the cross.
In our first reading God asked Abraham to give Him what was most precious to him, his only Son Isaac. In our second reading we heard of God giving up what was most precious to Him, Jesus His only Son as a sign and pledge of God’s great love for each of us.
So often, when we face our own faults and failings and we imagine God to be so angry or fed up and tired of our weaknesses we can’t seem to get our heads around what today’s scripture is telling us, “God who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, will he not, with him, give us everything else?”
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” The love of the crucified Christ sweeps over us like a tsunami; it overwhelms us, engulfs us, and sweeps us up. In one of his letters St. Paul claims, nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. What we’re talking about here is not our love for God but God’s love for us. God’s love for us is a given, proven beyond all doubt. Our response, our openness to that love is another issue.
The only thing that can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus is ourselves and our unwillingness to open our lives to the love and life offered us by the crucified Christ. The only thing that can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord is our unwillingness to distance ourselves from persons or places or mind sets or life styles that come between us and the life and love Christ offers us.
You’ve heard of the story of the young couple out for an evening drive. He’s behind the steering wheel, she over by the passenger door. She looks at him and says, “We didn’t sit like this when we were courting”. He looks at her and says, “I haven’t moved.” If anything can come between us and the love of God, it is our distancing ourselves from such a love.
During these days of Lent we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we come to grips with the awesome truth we celebrate and remember in this Eucharist, “God did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all.”