God tells Abraham to take his son, Isaac, the one he loves, the one upon whom hangs all of God's promises of descendants and blessings, and offer him up as a sacrifice. What a shock that must have been! This miracle son, this beloved boy, is the center Abraham and Sarah's entire life, and now God wants him. What's perhaps even more shocking is that Abraham obeys. He takes Isaac out with a load of wood and a knife and prepares to sacrifice his son. God, of course, stops him at the last moment, leaving us to wonder why He made the command at all. What is the meaning of this whole incident?
First, God is testing Abraham's faith. He has told Abraham that he will be the father of nations, now He wants to see if Abraham will keep on believing in His promises even in the face of seeming impossibility. God wants to know if Abraham will put Him first before everything, and even everyone, else in his life. Abraham passes the test. He trusts God enough to know that somehow He will come through, even if it takes a miracle.
Second, God is providing a type for an event that will take place in the New Testament. A type is a foreshadow, a prefiguration, a sign that points to something that will happen in the future. Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac is a type of God the Father's real sacrifice of Jesus, the divine Son of God. Isaac carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed. He trusted his father 100%, completely following his will. Abraham, we are told in Hebrews 11, believed that God could fulfill His promises even if He had to raise someone from the dead. Scholars point out many other parallels, but of course, there is one major difference. God the Father didn't just offer to sacrifice His beloved Son. He really did it for the salvation of the world.
Friday – Doubting Thomas
Poor Thomas! He always seems to get a bad rap. He has been labeled “Doubting Thomas” for nearly two centuries. Oh yes, he did doubt. He did say that unless he saw the nail marks in Jesus' hands and put his hand in Jesus' side, he wasn't going to believe. But what would you have done in his place? Would you have believed your companions if they told you that a dead man walked through a locked door and ate with them? Be honest. What would you have said to them?
We take Jesus' Resurrection for granted. We've heard the story so many times that we hardly stop to reflect on how amazing it is. Jesus was dead, but now He lives. Spend some time meditating on that truth today.
Really, in a way, Thomas should be called “Believing Thomas” instead of “Doubting Thomas.” When he saw Jesus, he didn't just acknowledge that this was the man whom he had accompanied for three years. He dropped to his knees and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas recognized Jesus as divine. He proclaimed the truth that Jesus is God. He finally learned to look beyond what was in front of his face and recognize the depths of reality. Thomas believed.
Saturday – Something New
Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Have you ever performed the same routine day after day for so long that you find it hard to change? Have you ever clung to the past because you're afraid to move into the future?
In today's Gospel, Jesus addresses this common problem. John the Baptist's disciples couldn't figure out why Jesus' disciples weren't fasting. They just weren't following the normal Jewish customs, and it was kind of disturbing.
Jesus responds with two mini-parables: “No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
God was doing something new. In Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a human being. He would die on the cross and rise again for the salvation of the whole world. He would open the gate of Heaven and invite humanity to eternal life with God. This great truth would bring change. People would have to adopt new customs and practices to respond to a new reality. They would have to let go of their old cloaks and old wineskins, which would no longer be appropriate for this new phase in God's plan for the world.
Perhaps God is calling you to something new. Perhaps he is asking you to give up the comforts of your old ways of doing things and move on to the next phase in His plan for you. How will you respond?