Gn. 22:1-2, 9a, 10 – 13, 15 – 18
Abraham is called our “father in faith’ by Paul the Apostle in his letter to the Romans. The first time I read that I had to stop to consider why of all the great figures in scripture Abraham is singled out as the “father in faith.” My initial thought was his unquestioned response to God voice to go with all his family and belongings to a land God would show him. My reaction if I was told to go would be to ask God a whole lot of questions. The reason Abraham would obey was clear – the promise of numerous descendents. But which way should he go would be my first question. However, Abraham did not ask one question he simply started walking because he trusted in God’s promise; that fact alone would qualify him to be called our “father in faith.”
However, as I read about the journey of Abraham to the land he was promised I discovered his faith at times was seriously lacking. In Genesis 20 you will find that Abraham was concerned that Abimelech King of Gerar would find Sarah so beautiful he would kill Abraham to have Sarah for himself. Abraham believing this would happen developed a plan so he would not be killed by the king. That plan was to tell everyone Sarah was his sister not his wife and that way she would be taken by the king but he would live. It seems that Abraham’s faith in God to protect him and Sarah was not so great at that time. Abimelech does take Sarah for himself but It turns out well but not because of Abraham’s faith but because of the faithfulness of God. You should take the time to read this story of Abraham’s lack of trusting God at that moment.
We know that was not his only moment of failing to trust in God’s promise. The scriptures tell us he was concerned because he and Sarah were getting older and the promise of descendents was not happening. Abraham’s wanting the promise to happen took matters into his own hands and had a son with the slave girl Hagar (Genesis 16). This was another of Abraham’s moments where his faith in God was lacking.
I believe his lack of trusting in God’s plan should give us all some sense of relief since those moments sound like our own failure to trust God and so we take matters into our own hands.
The question we should consider is what happened after those lapses of faith? What transformed Abraham from doubting to an absolute trust in God? Think of what was requested of Abraham. He was to take the life of his son Isaac. His only son and the one God said was the promise of a great number of descendents. What allowed Abraham to move from doubting God would protect his life from Abimelech to believing that if he killed Isaac God would raise him from the dead?
The answer is found in the interaction between God and Abraham after every failure of Abraham to trust God. God had a plan for Abraham and he never allowed Abraham to allow his lack of faith to detour, derail or modify that plan. God was transforming Abraham so that every step was a mystical moment with God changing his faith and his understanding of God love and mercy.
This is a more than story about Abraham; it is a story to remind us of our own faith journey. How many times do we take our spiritual journey into our own hands and fail to rely on God’s desire to lead us to that place where God has destined us to be fruitful and grow out trust in God plan for us?
There is a strong visual image in this story and the gospel story about God and his promise to us. These readings point us to another mountain top called Calvary. In the story of Abraham and the trsanfiguration God is telling us to listen and believe in the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary.
Isaac carried the wood of the sacrifice on his shoulders asking his father Abraham how they would obtain the goat for the sacrifice. Peter saw the one to be sacrificed transfigured before his eyes. Jesus carryied another piece of wood to the place where the Lamb of God would be sacrificed for the sins of you and me.
Abraham had the lessons learned from his failures to trust burned into his heart by a loving God. We have the lessons of God’s love burned into our belief structure by witnesses, by the Word of God and by the Church. How have those lessons moved us from taking control of our own destiny and trusting that God provided the only thing necessary for us to have a faith as strong as Abraham?
So much imagery is given to us in today’s readings but it is not the imagery God wants us to see. It is the depth of his love and how far he would go even when we fail to trust him with our spiritual lives. God desires our hearts, our minds and our desire to follow him and trust he will bring us to life.
This Lent is more than a journey of repentance and turning back to God. It is a journey into the unknown trusting God is leading us and at the same time demanding that we trust him. It is a solitary journey with each step uncertain and each step a revelation by God showing us the joys of believing and trusting his plan for our lives.