Thursday in the 13th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
On the Mountain the Lord Provides
Readings: Genesis 22:1b-19; Psalm 115:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Matthew 9:1-8
As with many other stories in the bible, the story of Abraham & Isaac is so familiar to us that we can quite easily miss its shock-value. What could be more stunning than God asking Abraham to sacrifice his own son, the precious long-awaited heir, born to him when he was already a hundred years old? How could God do such a thing – instruct his chosen one to take an innocent life? What could be further from our experience of God? And yet perhaps the story is closer to our experience than we think. Isn’t Abraham’s experience of testing not unlike, for example, the alarm and anguish of parents whose children fail an important exam, or stray from the faith, or lurch towards a life of delinquency and even crime? All frantic efforts to save the endangered one seem fruitless. Nothing seems to work. And, of course, the examples can be multiplied. Though the experiences might differ in their practical details, what they all have in common is the utter helplessness of those involved. What to do?
Our readings suggest a way. In such situations, even as we continue to try our best to make things better, perhaps we’re being invited to offer the cause of our difficulty as a sacrifice to the Lord. Perhaps we are being asked to climb our respective Moriahs, to lay our powerlessness before the Lord. Isn’t this what the friends of the paralytic do in the gospel? They have no power to heal their friend. But they do not give up. In their own way, they climb God’s mountain. They bring their friend to Jesus. And not only does Jesus heal him, but he also cleanses him from his sins. The paralytic and his friends experience what Abraham experiences: on the mountain the Lord provides… For Abraham speaks more truly than even he himself is aware when he says that God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering. Isn’t this who Jesus is: the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? In him, do we not share the experience of the psalmist who proclaims: the Lord protects the simple hearts; I was helpless and he saved me?
How are we being invited to climb the mountain of sacrifice? How does God wish to provide for us today?