Trust in God is what we need to face the hardships and incomprehensibility of life. It’s what Abraham in this Sunday’s First Reading manifested to us. He trusted in God’s inscrutable command. “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you,” the Lord told him. We would think that Abraham would resist and complain, but, no, he did as the Lord commanded him to do.
The story is one that has baffled the minds of many people for ages. How could God ask Abraham to kill his only son? What father would ever do that to his son? The story, however, continues that when God saw Abraham’s fidelity, he sent a messenger to tell him to stop the sacrifice. The messenger spoke to him these words that would ring for centuries to the ears of Abraham’s descendants: “I swear to myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession.”
Indeed, the story of Abraham’s Sacrifice conveys a test of faith in God. It’s related to our personal stories of faith, in those moments when God challenges us to keep believing in him and entrusting our lives to him despite any experience of death, sickness, doubts, fears, anxieties, confusion, and other insecurities. It’s a story that corresponds to St. Paul’s profession of faith in Romans 8:31-34: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”
The story of Abraham’s test is one that challenges us to let go of the people, the preoccupations, and all the things we value and still keep believing in the promises of God that he will never forsake us; he will be with us. As Father James Kavanaugh, SJ says in “The Word Encountered: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures”: “Each of us is required to make Abraham’s sacrifice. We all must face the inevitability of letting go our most beloved person, task, accomplishment, joy. Everything dear to us, everything given to us by God is subject to death: its own and our own.”
This heroic act of letting go asks us to keep believing in the goodness and promises of God. It’s what Abraham modeled to us. In the end, God’s promises to Abraham became real. In Abraham’s old age, God fulfilled his promise of giving him a son through his wife Sarah, whom he named Isaac—God’s promise of future generations!
Faith involves believing in the trustworthiness of God. Without this believe we will not be able to obey his commands. The words in the Gospel this Sunday in the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus highlights this message of trust in God: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
May Lent be a time for us to trust God fully in his words and mission for us! May we always increase in faith, knowing that God’s promises will come true! Amen.
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.