Gn 22:1-19; Ps 115:1-9; Mt 9:1-8
Abraham walked in the presence of the Lord in the land of Moriah. In the land of the pagans who under great pressure and the desire to please their idols would offer even their children in sacrifice. In faith Abraham knew the God who is in heaven and who does whatever he wills. In faith Abraham learned not to trust in the gods of the nations who are idols of silver and gold, the handiwork of men. In the Land of Israel Jesus walked with his disciples and they came to know his power to heal and to save. In a land where people believed that sickness was the result of sin, Jesus confronts both physical evil and spiritual evil. His power to heal reveals his power to forgive. These miracles of the Lord Jesus struck the crowds with awe and they glorified God who had given such authority to men. The power of the sacraments to heal and to save still summons us to glorify God who raises us up from the paralysis of our sins.
This story of the sacrifice of Abraham—not the sacrifice of Isaac—is too familiar, and we often miss the key to understanding it. This key is the very first line: “God put Abraham to the test.” This is not the first test for Abraham, but it is his final exam. After this test God proclaims: “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved Son.” Now, not only does God know the quality of Abraham’s faith, but now Abraham also knows what God knows. Sharing in the very knowledge of God has been the desire of the human heart from the very beginning. In the garden God tested Adam and Eve and they failed to trust that the Lord God would share with them the knowledge of good and evil and that in his own time the Lord God would share his very divine life with them. Not only do we hear echoes of the first test; we also hear an intimation of the final exam in another garden, Gethsemane. Likewise, the expectation of Abraham that God would provide a sheep on the mountain reminds us of the Lamb of God on the mountain, Calvary. We, too, are tested in the garden and on the mountain. We, too, must sacrifice that which is most precious—that without which we cannot live—so that we can live forever. “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful one.” Too costly in the Father’s eyes the death of his Only Begotten Son. How dare we expect Him to be so generous, yet his self-gift in his Only Son is exactly what He freely gives to set us free. We cannot pay for; we cannot earn; we can never deserve what he gives to us in the Beloved Son.
We who walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living, have been raised up from the paralysis of sin and death. We have been brought by those who love us to the Lord Jesus, and he admires such an act of faith. We take courage that our sins are forgiven. We believe in the One sent by the Father. We do not accuse him of blasphemy—as if Jesus would ever try to usurp the authority of God. We know that this authority to forgive sins and to heal lives is the undeserved gift of the Father in the life, preaching, ministry, death and resurrection of His Only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He still reaches out to raise us up here in the Eucharist. From here we go home, to raise up the paralyzed by the power of Christ, who lives in us. With Saint Paul, we proclaim, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”