Year B: Second Sunday of Lent
First Reading: Genesis 22: 1-2 9-13,15-18
The story of Godís testing of Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is puzzling. Why should a God who loves and who gave Abraham the son now ask something so cruel?
In approaching a story like this, we have to remember that God knew the outcome. God knew that Abraham would not need to kill his son - but that, through his obedience, would learn something about God and Godís promise for the world.
We can only imagine the range of emotions going through Abrahamís soul - bewilderment - anger - fear - all the natural feelings any parent would have if put into that situation. Yet, over-riding it was a belief in God - the God who had led him out of his homeland - who had given a child to himself and Sarah long after they had given up hope. Somewhere deep inside was the stubborn conviction that God would not let him down - even when he himself could not see how.
The story ends happily with the ram being sacrificed in place of Isaac. Christians look to this story to help them to understand the sacrifice of Jesus - how could God ask that of His Son - and yet, here was Abraham prepared to do the same thing knowing that it was somehow in Godís greater purpose.
It may also be that God was showing Abraham the kind of god He was not. At that time, human sacrifice was still part of many religions - and it is possible that, in time, someone could have decided that God must be like the pagan gods - a god who demanded human blood. This story makes it clear that God does not demand the sacrifice of human children - God is the God of love and of life. His desire is to crown the obedience of His servant with blessings and the promise of descendants more numerous than the stars - or grains of sand on a seashore...
What does it mean for me?