After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
I wonder what was going through Abraham’s mind when, in today’s first reading, he and Isaac are walking alone to Moriah, the offering site. The servants, who would normally have carried the wood and prepared the offering site, were asked to stay behind. Isaac asks the natural question, “Where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
Was Abraham thinking, “Oh no! Isaac is on to me. God plans for him to die, so I’d better tell a lie.” Or was it more like: “I’m pretty sure that God is just testing me here. I’m going to play along so that when God sees Isaac tied down I’ll get major brownie points.”
Or could Abraham have been genuine in his recorded response, “God himself will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Was Abraham really so unperturbed as to trust God to the point of willingness to sacrifice his own son?
Regardless of what Abraham may have been thinking, this story is about trust, the kind of trust that we rarely encounter in our modern world. Abraham was willing to give up everything when God asks him.
Are we able to offer God that kind of trust?
—Jim and Lauren Gaffey. Jim is a science teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep. Lauren is the Charis Ministries Program Coordinator for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality, and does work for the Midwest Jesuits.
O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church.
—Excerpt of St. Padre Pio’s Prayer for Trust and Confidence in the Lord’s Mercy.