Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 22:1b-19; Matthew 9:1-8)
In considering the story of Abraham being called to slay his beloved son Isaac, we cannot help but being horrified by the proposal. It seems preposterous for God to suggest that anyone take an innocent life because He has written on our hearts an injunction against it. Natural law tells us that murder is wrong and therefore murdering one’s own offspring is especially abominable. We accept the story as revelation but are forced to question, not unlike those who ponder how God might permit a tsunami killing hundreds of thousands of people or a dictatorial regime taking a hundred times that number, the benevolence of such a God.
Of course, the text says from the beginning that God is testing Abraham. Tests are by nature hypothetical. They do not mean everything they say. In true or false tests, for example, not every statement of the tester is true. Does this mean that she lies? Tests, we should acknowledge, are at least as much a stimulus to learning as they are a tool of evaluation. In fact, in the long run we are probably more likely to recall a wrong answer on a test than a correct one.
The crucial lesson in Abraham’s test is that he, and by extension we, must subordinate ourselves completely to God. We are not the most important person even, in our own small universe; He is. If Abraham is ever to father a truly great nation, he and his descendants must learn that national interest does not trump justice, that one’s leisure should not take preclude the obligation to worship, and that one’s concern for family is not a reason for denying the poor outside one’s door. Question God’s reasons if we must, but always render Him sovereignty over our lives!