Second Sunday of Lent, Year B.

‘God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.’ – John 3:16.

I wonder if John the evangelist had the passage about Abraham from our first
reading in mind when he wrote that line in his Gospel?

There was a valley south of the Jerusalem Temple where the Caananites
amongst whom Abraham lived used to sacrifice children to an idol of their God,
Moloch, by throwing them into a fire.

The Idol was destroyed in the 7 th century BC but the horror of the Valley of
Hinnon lived on amongst the people, they imagined it to be what hell was like
and it became the place where the city’s refuse was dumped, smoke rising
continually from the smouldering fires burning the rubbish.

Of course, there is no room for such barbaric practices as child-sacrifice in the
worship of God, but it seems that this is precisely what God asks Abraham to
do in our first reading from the Book of Genesis.

This story, the sacrifice of Abraham, is shocking to us who have been brought
up with an image of a God of love and mercy.

There seems no earthly reason behind the dreadful demand made of Abraham,
and yet Abraham unquestioningly obeys.

We expect him to argue or at least ask God why he is making this unreasonable
demand of the life of an innocent child.

And what seems like Abraham’s blind obedience - which flies in the face of
common sense and decency - is rewarded when God stays Abraham’s hand
and repeals the death sentence on Isaac.

There is an obvious parallel here between the sacrifice demanded of Abraham,
that of the life of his beloved son, and God allowing His own beloved Son to be
sacrificed on the cross.

Isaac innocently carried the wood for the fire on which he was to be laid up the
hill to the place God had directed Abraham to.

Jesus carried the wood of his cross to the hill of Calvary.

But here the similarities end.

Isaac was reprieved when God saw that his father, Abraham, trusted him
enough to do as he was bid and take the life of his son.

Jesus willingly laid down his life, he knew what fate awaited him having several
times foretold the manner of his death to his followers.

The God who spared the son of Abraham, and showered him with countless
blessings, did not spare his own Son, but gave him in the hands of his enemies
for our redemption.

Shortly before the scene in today’s Gospel Jesus had told his disciples that he
was to suffer and be put to death.

Peter had remonstrated with him, arguing that this must never happen.

Jesus’ response to Peter was swift and severe:

‘Get thee behind me, Satan!

The way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

In our dealings with God we must above all have complete faith and trust.

We can never do anything better than to trust in God.

He is the inextinguishable light which the darkness cannot overcome.
If we place our hand in his hand like a little child in the hand of it’s parent
nothing and no-one can do us harm.

We cannot begin to imagine what agonies Abraham went through on being
told that God was demanding the life of his son, Isaac.

But Abraham overcame his fears, trusted in God and did as he was told.

On the cellar wall of a bombed-out house in Cologne someone had left a
message which is a deeply moving testimony of complete trust in God’s saving

The inscription only came to light after the rubble had been cleared at the end
of the war.

It read:

“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I do not feel it.
I believe in God even when he is silent.”

That is the faith of Abraham, and is the kind of faith we should seek to emulate
as well.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.