Thursday June 30, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 22:1b-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:1-8)
In the first reading today, we hear from the Book of Genesis about this sacrifice of Isaac, that God has asked Abraham to offer his only son as a sacrifice. Now there are a number of things in here that we can look at, first of all, the fact that God calls Isaac the only son of Abraham. We know that Abraham already had Ishmael through Hagar, the slave girl, but he was not the son of promise. Because of the situation, it is God Himself who is saying, “Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love,” to be able to say that the other one is illegitimate and is not considered in this case. Therefore, truly the only son is Isaac.
So as Abraham sets off to offer this son who was the fulfillment of the promise, remember that Abraham was a hundred years old when he had Isaac. Now several years later he is going to offer his son as a sacrifice, and it would appear that the promises of God are once again going to be dashed. How is God going to fulfill what He has promised? Well, we remember that when Abraham was in his seventies he took things into his own hands and decided to have Ishmael. But now, Abraham is going to trust God. Even though it seems absolutely foolish and completely hopeless, he still continues to trust in God, that God would fulfill His promise. And he is willing to offer even the person that he loves the most to God, which is a very important lesson to all of us – not to tie up our kids and offer them as a burnt offering – but rather to be completely detached from husband or wife or children, because they belong first and foremost to God. They are given to us as gifts to love, and in the meantime they are with us but they belong to Him. He created them. All the parents did was cooperate with God in the creation of the children. So we need to be detached in that proper way so we can love the other person solely for the sake of that other person. If we are not detached, then our love is selfish. We cannot do that. We want to love the person in a completely selfless way.
Then as we go through, skipping many other important points, we get to the point where after God has stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son. The Lord then says to Abraham, “Now I see just how committed you really are,” and then goes on to say, “Now all of your descendants will be countless.” God has made this promise several times to Abraham: “Look up at the stars in the sky and see if you can count them. Go and try to count the sand on the shore of the sea.” But the promise is not going to be fulfilled until after there is a test.
Jesus has made many promises; God Himself has made many promises. All of them are going to be fulfilled in each and every one of us provided that we do His Will. There is going to be a test – and many more than one. All the promises are there and they are all true, but they are not just simply there to say, “All of this is yours, now go and do whatever you want.” Rather, God is saying, “All of this is yours, but you have to prove that it is really what you want. You have to prove that you love Me more than anything in the world, and that you truly want the promises that are being offered.” Abraham’s test was a particularly painful and difficult one. But if you read the lives of the saints, the tests that God gives to Christian people are not any less – different, yes, but no less. They are difficult because He is really asking the question: “Do you love Me?”
The thing that all of us need to recognize is that we have to put God first. There are wonderful promises that Our Lord has made for us regarding eternal life, regarding all that He is going to do for us even in this world, but we have to show our love for Him. His promises are true and they are trustworthy. The question now is: Are we true and are we trustworthy? The only way we are going to know is to be tested. So thanks be to God for His promises. Now we need to pray that we will be faithful in the midst of the testing so that everything promised us will indeed be ours.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.