Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
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It was already a miracle that Abraham and Sarah even had a son, Isaac. The name itself means “laughter,” because when God promised them that they would have a son, Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90, and they both laughed. Yet it came to pass. Abraham used to be named “Abram” (“exalted father”), but God changed his name to “Abraham” (“father of many”). Isaac, then, was the beginning of the fulfillment of this marvelous promise that Abraham would have descendants as countless as the stars of the sky.
What a test, then, when God said he was going to take the only son to himself. How would God’s promise be fulfilled, and why would God do this in the light of his promise? Yet despite unanswerable questions, Abraham trusted and obeyed. He is truly “our father in faith.”
God gave Abraham this test as a foreshadowing of Christ. The eternal Father would give his own Son for the life of the world. But again, how could he do this? The question of Isaac still echoes centuries later at Calvary. If the Father loves the Son, how could he sacrifice him on the wood of the cross?
The answer, as Thomas Aquinas expressed it, lies in the fact that God filled his Son with such love, that he was able to sacrifice himself for us. There is no enmity between the Father and the Son. There is only love, impelling the Son to give himself away. Christ said of his own life, “I have the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again.” He was speaking about the power of love.
That’s the power at the heart of the Culture of Life. It is a love by which we sacrifice ourselves for others. It is a love which, like the love God showed Abraham, brings life out of death. It is a love that sees and understands that in every circumstance, God is for us (2nd reading) and that nobody can be against us, that is, nobody can prevail in doing us ultimate harm. We always have the power to do what is right, to avoid injustice, and to welcome life. Lent is the opportunity to exercise the faith, the trust, the love we need to do precisely that. And yet this is no mere exercise of the will. It is the response to the gift of God in Christ Jesus, the only Beloved Son, to whom we listen and whom alone we obey.