Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Psalms 116:10, 15-19
I remember my reaction to the story of Abraham and Issac when I was an atheist. The Christian God makes some pretty unfair demands. God promised Abraham many descendants, but didn’t fulfill His promise until Abraham and Sarah were well into their retirement. When Abraham finally has his own flesh-and-blood son, God asks him to sacrifice the child. Ridiculous!
Of course, I don’t think the story is ridiculous, now. In fact, I think this story is one of the most beautiful in all of the Bible. It shows me the scope of God’s love affair with humankind. It proves to me that I cannot understand the New Testament without the Old Testament, and vice versa.
Father Warren Kinne said in his homily today that, in the Old Testament days, the Canaanite cults practiced ritual child sacrifice. God provided a very important moral teaching to the people of the time: you don’t have to sacrifice children in order to appease Me. Throughout the ages, rabbis have interpreted the story of Abraham and Issac as a parable of obedience and faith. I now see the connection between the Crucifixion of Christ to the story of Abraham and Issac: a debt had to be paid for our sins, but God didn’t want Abraham to atone for humanity’s sin with his only son. Instead, God will provide His own.
The beauty I find in this story is in the scope of time. Thousands of years passed before Jesus made the Abraham/Issac parable to be more than just about obedience and faith. In those thousands of years, God prepared His people for His Son’s arrival. It’s breathtaking to me that the collection of wisdom in Proverbs and Psalms, the warnings of the prophets and the stories of kings in the Old Testament all show God preparing humanity for the birth and mission of Jesus Christ. The Bible really is a love story between God and people. I am a part of this story, swept into this millennia-long love affair — God, because He can be everywhere to everyone at any time, tells me “I love you. Look, and you can count the ways. I love you uniquely, in a special way, but you are part of an even greater love story that includes all of mankind. Be secure in My love for you. Join me to love others.”