Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, lived about eighteen hundred years before Our Lord. He and his wife, Sarah, were old and had had no children. It was the sorrow of their lives. But one day, three strangers came to their tent in the desert country near the Holy Land and told them that by the following year, they would have a baby son. Sarah, listening inside the tent to the strangers talking to her husband outside, laughed at what seemed an impossible promise. But sure enough, the following year, she had given birth to their son Isaac, old as she was.
When Isaac was still just a boy, God visits Abraham again. Take your son—your only and beloved son, Isaac, and offer him to me as a burnt offering, a holocaust. Can you imagine what went through the mind of Abraham when he heard that? “Does he want me to kill my son? And even if I do such a terrible thing, how then will God’s promises about my becoming the father of an enormously numerous progeny be fulfilled? Why should Sarah and I have been enabled to have a child at our age if we are going to kill him before he is old enough to children of his own?” The place of sacrifice which God indicated to Abraham was a three days’ journey from his home. He took Isaac and two servants and began the terribly sad trip to that place, called Moriah. Imagine the grief, the questions, the failure to comprehend, which went through his mind during those terrible days and miles of that journey. The boy, Isaac, who is carrying the wood for the fire, even asks: we have the fire and the wood for the sacrifice, but what about the victim? With what must have been a breaking heart, Abraham parried the question by saying to his son, “God will provide the victim, my son.” Then, as we know, at the last moment, when Abraham had tied Isaac and laid him on the altar and taken the knife in his hand to kill his son, the reprieve came: “Do not lay your hand on the boy. Do not do the least thing to him!” We heave a sigh of relief as we read that, and we can imagine the relief that Abraham felt at this last-minute turn of events.
In the first Eucharistic Prayer used at Mass, we speak of Abraham as “our father in faith.” We might also call him our father in trust, our father in obedience. “I know now how devoted you are to God,” the divine messenger says to him, “since you did not withhold from him your own beloved son.”
We all have moments when we don’t understand why God does, or allows, some of the things that happen in our lives. But if we are true children of Abraham, we will do God’s will and cooperate with God’s plan. And it will come out for the best, as we will one day understand. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago