B Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Lent 21
How would we respond If someone who had no background in Christianity wanted to know why they should believe in the God we profess to believe in? Would our response be one that revealed our own intimacy with God, or would it be a response we learned during our faith formation?
Intimacy with God is the foundation of us hearing God, responding to God, and trusting in God. God called Abraham his intimate friend and it was that intimacy between God and Abraham that motivated Abraham to leave his home to go to a place God would show him. Abraham did not question that directive by God. No, he just picks up all his possessions and begins a journey without asking where is that place or which direction should he walk. Abraham just set out, knowing he could trust God to tell him when he reached that land.
However, during his journey Abraham had his moments where he lost his trust in God’s promise and God’s protection. The first time was when he was about to enter Egypt and was concerned that Pharaoh would kill him to have his wife Sarah as his own. Instead of trusting God would protect him, he asks Sarah to say she is his sister. That way Pharaoh would take Sarah and leave him alone (Gn.12:10-20). The second time his trust faltered was when the promise of descendants dragged on without any descendants being born. Abraham was prompted to have relations with the slave girl (Gen.16) because Sarah was too old to give birth to a son.
it should not amaze us when God’s promise does not seem to be coming as quickly as we desire, that we like Abraham take matters into our own hands.
There is a spiritual lesson for us in the actions of Abraham and God’s reaction to his failure to trust. God does not punish Abraham for being impulsive while waiting for the promise of God to unfold. God’s promise to restore us is there for us if we but respond to his invitation as did Abraham. But we should not be surprised when God challenges us to do what seems impossible. For Abraham it was to sacrifice his son. To Peter it was to walk on water. To the disciples it was to feed the thousands and to trust they would not only proclaim the gospel but they would have access to the power of God.
You can imagine the impact on Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his only son through whom those numerous descendants would come. This man who did lack trust early in his journey with God was now so completely trusting in God he will sacrifice his son. Paul tells us that is why Abraham is called the “father of faith” because at that moment Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. Now that was faith because no one had been raised from the dead before. The descendants promised by God will come through Isaac even if he offers Isaac as a sacrifice to God.
This had to be difficult for Abraham but his belief and his trust in God overcame logic which had to be screaming at him to disobey. Something to keep in mind as we think of our Lenten sacrifices and how puny they can be in comparison to the sacrifice of Isaac. We know God stops Abraham as he lifts the knife for Abraham’s test was show how we need to set aside logic in following God.
That is the greatest lesson of all for us. How much do we trust God’s promise that the one true sacrifice of Jesus took away the penalty for our sins? Are we still doing things to appease God while we struggle with overcoming our own sinfulness? Do we trust the promise to send us the Spirit to guide us to holiness or are we striving for holiness by our own acts of piety and devotion? Are we like the early Abraham who believed enough to begin a journey to discover God’s plan for us? But do we at some point take our quest for salvation into our own hands because we are not sure where God is leading us or if he is with us.
God’s plan for us is a test of our faith; do we believe we are given life by the death of Jesus? Do we believe in the promises of God that we are sanctified, glorified, and restored only because of Jesus Christ and not from any merit of our own? This story is given to us not to have us focus on Abraham but to focus on God’s immense love for us. In the ancient world they sacrificed their sons out of love. Yet, God does not demand our sacrifice. No, he demands belief, faith, trust as he sacrificed his Son out of love for us.
Paul asks us a question about this very thing when he writes in Romans 8 about our victory in Christ. That chapter is worthwhile reading as we prepare for Holy Week and the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul writes “what shall we say about these things?” Then he answers the question for us saying, “if God did not spare his only Son, but delivered him over for us all, will he not also give us all things freely.” He goes on to say, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not our sins, not our lack of trust, not our stubbornness. But we can resist, and we fail to respond to what God offers us.
The real question for us is are we willing to allow God to test our belief in His promise and his plan for our salvation by giving our hearts to God and thanking him for the gift of Jesus Christ. Lent should prepare us for Easter and a lifetime spent in doing exactly what God said to Peter, James and John as Jesus was transfigured, “listen to Him” not to our own impulses.