Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 22:1b-19; Matthew 9:1-8)
Mass murderers are regularly reported as hearing voices. They are directed by what they often explain as a divine command to commit an atrocity. Abraham seems to hear such a dark order in today’s first reading.
The passage, sometimes called by its Hebrew name Akeda meaning binding, challenges interpreters. They rightly ask, “How could a just God suggest to anyone that he kill his son as a sacrifice?” Can God really be so capricious or, more pointedly, so cruel. No, such a conception contradicts what God has revealed about Himself. But humans are subject to such vagaries of will. The story may be better understood in a way that contrasts to what is written. Rather than God directing Abraham to slaughter Isaac, Abraham may be superimposing on God an aberrant voice within him telling him to commit the outrage. Drama is taking place within Abraham – will he accept as God’s will the voice that tells him to kill Isaac or the natural order that forbids all human sacrifice? What may well be God’s true voice then speaks up. Abraham clearly hears that he is not to kill his son, but to offer a sacrifice on his behalf.
People often enough claim to hear the voice of God within them. They are not to be dismissed as demented or foolish. But they should test that voice by comparing it with God’s will as seen in the natural law and in revelation. If there is an aberration between the two, they must concede to what is known in the latter category.