Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As we continue our journey through Lent, the Church presents us scriptures that invite us to meditate on how God has acted in history and how his grace impacts our lives today. Today we hear about the testing of Abraham.
Abraham (initially called Abram) lived approximately 2,000 years before Jesus. He, his wife Sarai (later to be called Sarah), his father, Terra, and their tribal family lived in Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq) and migrated to a place called Haran (modern-day Turkey). There God called Abraham to go to the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel) and God promised Abraham the He would make of him a great nation and that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Thus, Abraham became the great patriarch of the Jewish people and, for Christians, our “father in faith.”
Today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis gives an account of God’s command to Abraham to go the Mount Moriah (the place where the temple in Jerusalem would eventually be built) and to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and make of him a burnt offering to God. In other words, God tells Abraham to slaughter his only son as an act of faith in God. Abraham obeys and at the last moment, as the knife is raised, an angel of God stays Abraham’s hand and reveals to him that God merely wanted to test Abraham’s faith. The boy, Isaac, is spared.
To our modern sensibilities this might seem like a cruel way of testing someone’s faith. Why, we might ask, did God have to test Abraham? Well, it seems that in the scheme of salvation history God had big plans for Abraham. Today three world-religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, consider themselves heirs to the faith of Abraham. God tested Abraham, not to prove something to Himself, but to reveal to Abraham the degree of faith that he possessed within himself. Abraham had to be convinced that he had what it took to carryout God’s plan. Faith becomes stronger when it is tested.
Lent is an opportunity for us to be tested. Tested in a much milder manner than was Abraham but tested non-the-less. If we truly embrace this penitential season and fill it with sincere prayer, honesty about our sinfulness with recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, self-denial and generous sharing, we become spiritually stronger. We come to appreciate the level of faith that we actually possess; the willingness we have to be obedient to God’s will in our lives.
How has your faith been tested? How did you respond to God’s test? Obedience, in the midst of testing, strengthens faith and better equips us to carry out God’s will in our lives. May whatever testing God has in mind for you make your faith stronger and bolster your confidence in living the truth of the Gospel.
Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,