There is a journey ahead for me in life. I wish to God that it will be easier, not only for ourselves but for our children too. Challenges come one after another. I too cannot understand the presence of suffering in life. I wish for a journey of eternal bliss. As I reflect deeper, everlasting joy and happiness only exists in heaven. Wishing for that now is asking for instant death. I am not quite ready for that yet.
So we need to journey on through this life before us. In between now and the entrance of heaven, we must put ourselves on the right track. I grew up reading today’s first reading in fear. Will I be tested as Abraham was with a need to sacrifice my son as a burnt offering so that I could enter heaven?
The passage does not share with us what Abraham was feeling or thinking at that moment. Without any deeper reflection, I read that Abraham had already killed Isaac. Which isn’t true. The passage tells me today of the need to rely on God’s love and mercy in our life. It is not so much that we “must” love God as a law but rather that the only way we can feel his love and mercy is through a relationship of love with Him. In this sense it becomes a “must” for our own good. God put Abraham to test this love.
From this then comes the need to trust in God in everything that lies ahead for us in life. For Abraham this trust came to life when God made a timely appearance to intervene resulting in Abraham becoming a father of all nations with “descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore”.
On that mountain was Abraham’s personal experience of God. We too have our own mountains. Life is full of challenges and sufferings; in the past and in the days ahead. Each event in the past is a preparation for the future. We need to dig deep into our despairs, when all seem so hopeless, to find and experience God’s personal, saving and timely intervention in our life.
The Gospel relates the Transfiguration of Jesus. Our personal experiences when God intervened in our life is our personal experience of the Transfiguration. Each experience left us with these words for the life ahead of us, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him”. And we benefited without ever reaching the heights of the trust Abraham had.
God does not create tests using challenges and sufferings on us. Many times these come about, or are compounded by our own choices or the choices of others with consequences in our own life. We cannot blame God for these. And he has the power to put an instant stop to all these but it would, for most of us, be untimely.
So he sends his Son to help us navigate through the challenges in life with a simple instruction, “Listen to Him”. Challenges have divided the self in us. Part of our self is caught like the ram Abraham saw in the bush. The horns of the ram are like the horns of selfishness, greed, lust, jealousy and so on that entangle part of our self, rendering us unable to walk on in faith. This is the “ram” we must take from within us; this ‘self’ that is blocking the love relationship with God reducing our trust in him. This ‘self’ is what we must burn as an offering to God.
Only then will the path of life be easier for us. The challenges and sufferings will still be there but we can respond with today’s psalm, “I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living”. “With God on our side who can be against us?” Love and trust will keep us on track.
Second Sunday of Lent