Readings: 1st- Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; 2nd- Rom. 8:31-34; Gospel- Mk. 9:2-10
Saint Paul’s question summarizes most of the human experience, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Often we find ourselves at crossroads, and we question God’s presence. As if the world is going to crash on us, we worry whether God is there for us or not. As in the case of Abraham in the first reading, we could be murmuring in our hearts, “Why does God make difficult demands from believers?” The reality is that trials are real, so it’s not about what we think or feel. Our faith must be tested for it to be real. God says to each of us at some point in our life “come higher. Follow me.” This always involves a test of faith. But the game is that God always walks ahead.
In the first reading, Abraham’s faith is tested. The land of Moriah, in this case, signifies a profession of faith and a place for trial. This is a great asking, a huge trial for Abraham; the sacrifice of his only son Isaac. However, the true test is that the Lord is asking Abraham to trust him. To trust that God will lead him and care for him. The first invitation is for Abram to move to a distant, unknown land. Abram obeys God and moves. The relationship between this journey and the call to sacrifice his son in today’s reading is important. In the first encounter, Abram asks God, “What use are your gifts, as I am going on my way childless?” God answers, “...no, your heir will be the issue of your own body”. Then God takes him outside and assures him, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so I will make your descendants be” (Gen. 15:2-6). Now God asks Abraham in today’s reading, to take his son Isaac, his only, beloved son to go to the land of Moriah for sacrifice. (Gen. 22:2)
Temptation can be seen in two ways: positive temptation which is the test of faith, and negative temptation which is a lure to sin. For instance, the devil tries to lure Job away from his faith. God does not abandon Job even though he allows the devil to tempt him to see if Job will succumb. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the line in Our Fatherwhich says, Lead us not into temptation, “This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. …the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation” (CCC 2846). Primarily, God protects us from sinning and cannot lead us into sin.
Christ takes his closest disciples - Peter, James and John up to Mount Tabor and becomes transfigured before them. He shows them his divinity, his beauty. He calls these three to go higher with Him, to draw closer to Him. Jesus’ theophany happens in a mysterious way, then Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain. These Old Testament figures represent the Law and the Prophets with Jesus being the fulfillment, the full meaning of Law and Prophets.
Back to the Old Testament story, God speaks to Abraham, “Take your son, your only one, your beloved Isaac.” Again, in the New Testament, the Voice of the Father speaks from heaven at the transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In his Letter, Paul writes in the second reading, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all” (Rom. 8:31). The image of Isaac in the mosaic times, points to the Lamb of God who would be slain for the sins of mankind, the beloved of the Father proclaimed by the prophets, Christ, whose death and resurrection is revealed at the transfiguration. By the death of Christ, God acquits us from charges against our Christian faith. God knows that our faith cost us so much, but He always walks ahead.
Faith that is not tested cannot be confirmed. We find ourselves stretched constantly because of our Christian beliefs and practices. We face temptations luring us to accommodate the false idea of worship by convenience. If Abraham worshiped God by convenience, he would not obey. Abraham took the risk of faith and God blessed him. If Christ based his ministry on convenience, he would not accept the Cup for which he uttered, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42). We are stretched to give up convenience and defend what we value as followers of Christ: family, marriage, parenting, the sanctity of life, education, vocation to the religious life. We are made to feel disappointments, frustrations, failures, losses, griefs because we hold on to our faith. We face charges and persecutions. In those moments, life gets tough and painful. Just as God provided the ram for Abraham’s sacrifice, God always provides a rescue.
My dear friends, each one of us is made for greatness but that greatness comes by way of the cross. Just as Abraham climbs Mount Moriah, the apostles climb Mount Tabor, Christ climbs Mount Calvary, so we encounter Jesus at the Blessed Mount of His precious Body and Blood at Mass. In this life, we must take up our cross and follow Christ. We must trust, as Abraham did, that he will lead us even when the situation seems impossible. Every time we embrace our cross, we find deeper meaning and understanding in our life. Like Abraham, we see the reality of God at work in us. When you struggle and persevere, God reveals himself to you. When you continue to trust as you ascend the mountain in your life, God will lead you. Why is this so important in our culture? Because people are feeling overwhelmed and they don’t know that God will help and lead them through their problems.
They don’t understand that the cross is part of life. We hear about the prosperity gospel that has become so popular today. It says that if I pray, God will give me wealth and power and health. But we all know this isn’t true. The cross is part of life. In it the beauty of God awaits. We all know someone who’s overwhelmed with life. Someone who has experienced sickness, death or their own trial. Maybe that someone is you. We learn from Abraham’s experience to follow the Lord. And the struggle that you face is not just a struggle; it is a moment of faith. It’s a moment of God leading you. Did you see how God provided the ram for Abraham? Just trust, He walks ahead!