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In God’s Will Lies Our Peace And Salvation


In God’s Will Lies Our Peace And Salvation

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)
Gen 22.1-2, 9-13, 15-18;  
Rom 8.31-34;  
Mk 9.2-10

Despite the irritations and aggravations that parents experience in bringing up their children, the urge to protect a child is a strong, inbuilt feature of human experience.  In times of crisis, the rule “women and children first” is still generally adhered to.  Numerous helplines and organizations have been set up to counsel and defend children.  In extremis, a mother’s or father’s instinct is to sacrifice themselves to save their child.

Perhaps it is this instinct that arouses feelings of unease and injustice in us when we hear the Old Testament reading at Mass today.  The book of Genesis tells us how God put Abraham to the test by instructing him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on a mountain-top altar.  In the event it was only a test, so, at the moment when Abraham has seized the knife, God says, “Do not raise your hand against the boy,” and Abraham instead sacrifices a ram which is caught in a bush.

 The story ends with God rewarding Abraham with the promise of many blessings – in the Old Testament way of thinking, a marvelous outcome.  But what sticks in some modern minds is more likely to be a feeling that somehow God has made an unreasonable demand, pushed Abraham too far, and compromised his loving nature.  
To understand the story rightly, we must begin by reminding ourselves that God is love and that he cannot act contrary to his loving nature.  Tempting though it was to twentieth-century Christians to question, analyze, and criticize God, we might make a new century’s resolution that we Catholics will accept God for what he is – perfect compassion, justice, and truth.

The purpose of the test of Abraham – “our father in faith” as the Roman Canon describes him – is to enable him to find and express perfect trust in God’s providence, so that in absolute dependence on God’s will, Abraham may fulfill his mission to lead the Lord’s people.

The responsorial psalm for the day sums up Abraham’s response:  “I trusted, even when I said, ‘I am sorely afflicted.’ / Your servant, Lord, your servant am I; you have loosened my bonds. / A thanksgiving sacrifice I will make:  I will call on the Lord’s name.”

So, having reminded ourselves that there is no injustice in God, any problems we feel with the story of Abraham and Isaac must have to do with Old Testament times. In approaching the book of Genesis, we need to recall the world in which it was formed, and then draw from it the spiritual meaning within the life of the Church.
Saint Paul helps us here, with words from his Letter to the Romans:  “Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.”  Isaac lived.  God the Father saw his sinless Son die as a sacrifice for sinful humanity.  

On Mount Moriah, a ram was found to be offered.  On Calvary, Christ Himself became the lamb of sacrifice.  There was no substitute for God’s Son.
 To consider how God might feel about the death of His Son is presumptuous.

 The early Fathers of the Church, in seeking to define the nature of God, concluded that he does not feel in the way that humans feel.  Yet we also know that man is created in the image of God so the parental urge to cherish and defend a son or daughter must have its origin in him.

 Our redemption came at the cost of the life of the Son of God, and therefore at a cost to God himself.  God was deeply involved in this event.  He is there as the supreme Being whose plan is to be brought to effect through death. He is the Father whose Son is to die as a sacrifice for sin.  He is there as the Son, enduring the pain of crucifixion in His humanity.
In the timelessness of God’s being, it is clear that the Lord did not ask Abraham anything which he had not already experienced Himself.  We catch a glimpse of the divine love of Father for Son on that other mountain, the mountain of Transfiguration, in the Gospel at today’s Mass.  For a moment, earth and heaven interact, the divine nature of Our Lord is shown in the dazzling white of His clothes, and a cloud engulfs Our Lord and His followers, Peter, James, and John.

 As a sign of the presence of God, it fills the disciples with awe and emphasizes the mystery.  Yet it also perhaps symbolizes the dark days that lie ahead.  The voice from heaven resounds, “This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to Him.”  Yet on the way down the mountain, Jesus speaks of the Son of Man rising from the dead.  The moment of witnessing Christ’s glory is also the moment when the idea of the Lord’s death and resurrection first breaks in the disciples.
The Catholic Faith reveals to us and makes present in the Sacraments, the reality of Heaven, of God himself touching the human realm.  In the Mass, the gulf between heaven and earth is bridged, the sacrifice of Christ becomes a present reality, and the obedience of the Son and the love of the Father in the power of the Spirit are here and now.  As the priest says, “This is my Body,” divine revelation is taking place when, on the Mount of Transfiguration, God said, “This is my Son”. Christ, whose sacrifice we celebrate in the Mass, the sacrifice that frees the world from sin, also calls on us to share in His death and resurrection.  

During this season of Lent, the Church calls us to put behind us all that holds us back from God.  We are to seek union with Our Lord’s self-offering, with God the Father’s generosity. We are to imitate our father in faith, Abraham, and be ready to offer up to God whatever we hold most precious, in perfect obedience.  For in God’s will lies our peace and salvation.

Fr Joseph Osho

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