Today’s readings remind us of sacrificing what we love most and God’s sacrifice of His own Son for our redemption and salvation.
In the first reading, we read the story of Abraham the father of faith. He is called this because of today’s first reading. Abraham is put to the test by God. This test is sometimes very hard for some of us today to bear. Even philosopher Kierkegaard wrote extensively on this in recalling how Abraham “suspended the ethical” in order to take this test (Fear and Trembling). So what was this test and why is it so hard to process? Well, Abraham and his wife Sarah were blessed by God with their own son named Isaac which means “God laughs or He laughs.” Sarah was unable to conceive a child (Genesis 11:30). Despite this, God promises Abraham that she will conceive a child from him; this gives both a chuckle (Genesis 17:15,19, Genesis 17:17, Genesis 18:12). This is why the son was named “Isaac” because God laughed at the incredulity of Abraham and Sarah. Since Isaac was Abraham’s only biological son with Sarah, he naturally valued him greatly as would any parent who has a child after not being to have one for so long. God then tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac to him. God does this to test Abraham.
At the time, the Hebrews were surrounded by all kinds of Pagan influences which demanded that they sacrifice even their own children to their deities of stone and wood. God tested Abraham to show the faith Abraham had. The Pagans had gods they could see and touch, but Abraham’s God was just a disembodied voice. It would take a lot of faith to trust this voice as being a real deity and not just Abraham’s imagination. Abraham demonstrated this exactly. He showed great faith and became the father of faith and an example to all believers. God of course prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac because that was never the real intention. In this season of Lent, we are called to make sacrifices and deny ourselves in order to get closer to God. In order to get closer to God and understand ourselves and our purpose, we must suspend our humanity, so to speak. We must set aside the norms that we create in society and trust solely in God’s will and providence. This is not easy to do.
This ties into the responsorial Psalm which reminds us that we have to “walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” We must trust God and believe in God even when we are afflicted (Job 13:15). This must be done while we are still living. A life a prayer, reception of the Sacraments, reading of Sacred Scripture and performing good works allows us to walk closer to God “in the land of the living.” Accepting the trials and tests we receive is also important (James 1:2-4). These help us grow stronger spiritually and psychologically. We must “go through hell first before we can get to heaven.” God never abandons us as we walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In the second reading, we are reminded that God is always with us and because of this, no one can stand against us. St. Paul reminds us that God loves us so much that He will always be there for us and will give us everything (Matthew 7:11, John 3:16). Today we are facing all kinds of trials from the world as Christians. The Catholic Church is being charged and accused of all kinds of evil. Nevertheless, as St. Paul states, “who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?” God is the one who will judge and acquit us (Psalm 75:7, James 4:12). We must go through these trials and trust in God as precious metals go through the fire before they become beautiful jewelry (Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7).
Lastly in the Gospel which ties into the first reading, we read of the Transfiguration of Christ. Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a high mountain. While there, He is transfigured before them. His clothing becomes into a vivid and dazzling white. We see this excursion up mountains in the Old Testament with three individuals in Exodus 24:1,9,15. The number three shows perfection or divine fullness. This is important because Elijah and Moses appear and talk to Jesus as if they were friends while at the same time representing the old Covenant and giving validity to Jesus being the awaited Messiah while God the Father speaks saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” Here we see that Jesus is the real deal (Malachi 3:1,23-24). He is not another prophet from Israel like the Jews were used to. Jesus is God in the flesh; the second person of the Blessed Trinity (John 1:1-14). The Father saying that Jesus is His Son connects to the first reading in that Jesus (God’s only Son) would become the sacrifice offered for all humankind just like Isaac was Abraham’s only biological son with Sarah and was going to be sacrificed (Hebrews 10, Romans 3:25). Jesus is the lamb of God who was provided to redeem all peoples in every time and place, dead and alive (John 1:29). Our job now is to do what the Father asks of us: “Listen to Him.” This is what Lent is all about. We set ourselves aside, all of our human customs, culture and what not and follow Jesus. We give up what we love most: ourselves; sacrificing this while seeking Jesus who is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for all of us. This is true love. God in a way treats us as if we were His god. This is how strong God’s love is for us. Like Abraham, we must trust in God and have faith as we walk into the desert leaving our comforts behind while accepting any trials that may and will come.