Today, the Lord’s Day, Almighty God speaks to us, the divine Eternal Word of our Father in Heaven and Eternal Son speaks to us about human sacrifice, trials and tribulations, the scary reality that God lets us be tempted and tested, and the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of his chosen Apostles Peter, James, and John.
When we hear or read about human sacrifices, we spontaneously think of primitive societies and of people practicing primitive religions in which idols – strange gods who are not the true God but in fact are probably demons – demand human sacrifice. It seems shocking to us that God, who called Abram to leave ancestral religion behind, to leave his country for an unknown land He promised to give him; that God now demanded that Abram sacrifice his only son.
When Abram left his homeland, he also put behind him the local religion with its common practice of making human sacrifices. Abram followed God’s voice for 25 years and God blessed Abram and lengthened his name to Abraham as a pledge of his promise that he would have so many descendants that he would expand and become a people, God’s Chosen People.
As it happened, God gave Abraham and Sarah in their old age only one son, Isaac. So, it is all the more difficult to understand why God would demand that Abraham make of Isaac, his only son, a human sacrifice: killing him and burning him up as a holocaust. At the last moment God stopped Abraham and provided a substitute victim, a ram caught in a bush; saving Isaac from death. Then God revealed to Abraham that he had passed the test.
This is very disturbing, because it confirms our experience that God does at times put us to the test. We don’t like being tested, but God is sovereign, and He alone knows his holy will for us, for our eternal destiny, for the good of our families, and for the salvation of humanity. It is also true that our human potential for good does not become activated until we face adversity and are obliged by troubles to make an effort to put into practice our ideals and values. If we never had any trouble in life; then we would remain weak and undeveloped.
God also needed to prepare a people who would one day be ready to welcome his divine and only-begotten Son when in his incarnation He would take flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the action of the Holy Spirit. We just finished celebrating Jesus’ Nativity at Christmas.
Today we see Jesus transfigured in radiant light and talking with Moses and Elijah about his suffering and death about to take place in Jerusalem. When Isaac, the true son of Abraham and Sarah was substituted for sacrifice by a ram, God taught humanity that his divine Son was substituted for sacrifice by Jesus’ humanity. The Divine Son of God could not die, but Jesus in his humanity could die. Death is the just punishment for all of humanity’s crimes and violent exploitation of others, and for all our sins against God’s love. Jesus died so we might live.
Illness, trials and tribulations, suffering and death – we find all of these revolting – and we often pray to God, asking Him to deliver us from all of them. We know from experience that at times God does deliver and protect us; while at other times, He allows us to suffer instead. We find it almost impossible to understand the ways of the Lord; still, we need to be more grateful.
Part of God’s plan for our life and eternal salvation, is that we learn to put our faith in God, to trust in Him. God has revealed to humanity through his Son Jesus that our Creator loves the human beings He has created. We cannot give our Creator a genuine return of love; not unless we choose and decide to believe in Him, to put our trust in Him. We cannot love what we fear, but we can love what we hold in awe and amazement with respect.
This is the meaning and purpose of the Season of Lent, and of our whole life on Earth: to learn to freely choose and decide to hold God in awe and amazement with respect and to give our Creator a genuine return of authentic love. This is why Jesus gave his apostles the “Last Supper” and commanded them to “do this in memory of Me”. This is the primary purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Jesus invites us to share in his own attitude of obedience to the Father’s will, even when we don’t fully understand his will, and especially when we find his will revolting, scary, and completely undesirable. This is how Jesus himself felt on Holy Thursday.
This is also why Jesus declared that we cannot be his disciples unless we accept to carry our cross and follow Him. No doubt the heaviest part of our cross is the daily burden of not knowing or not understanding why God allows us to suffer trials and tribulations, to be sick, suffer, and die, and why God gives humanity such extreme freedom that we actually do terrible things to one another. At no time in human history have there been as many human sacrifices as in our own day. Each year 40 million innocents are ripped from their mothers’ wombs and killed. They are slaughtered primarily because we men don’t support our women, and because both men and women have lost any sense of the sacredness of life and of our fertility. We have made pleasure our idol and have made it more important than life itself. We need to be saved.
If you haven’t been to confession in a long time, maybe now would be a good time to do it while we are still alive on this Earth. Jesus is there through the priest to give us his mercy.
So let us continue to fast, do penance, give alms to the poor, and pray for one another that we might accept this Lent to allow God to purify the intentions of our heart, our mind, our spirit and even our body, and renew our ability and willingness to trust in God our Creator with our lives, and to love God: the Father, + the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us take a few moments in silence to reflect on this Good News given to us by the Lord.
© 2006-2021 All rights reserved
Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate &
Poustinik, Montreal QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC