Some time ago, a friend called to tell me about a confusing situation that required him to make a quick decision. A medical diagnosis of his only son indicated a malignant meningioma which is a delicate brain tumor and the doctors were considering an open brain surgery with a 55% chance of survival for the nine-year-old boy. I could hear him crying and asking God, “why would you allow me to pass through this test?”. “There you go!” I interrupted him. “You are passing through a test; you are not stuck in it. Take the 55% chance, sign the medical papers, and God will make it a 100%!” chance. I could hear him say a strong “Amen” to my exhortation which sounded like a prayer. Long story cut short, sometime after the surgery, he came visiting with the little boy, and nobody could ever guess that he was ever an inpatient at Mount Sinai Hospital. The test became a testimony.
Have you ever been in a situation where there seem to be no better alternatives? Have ever been in a case where it appears that the whole world would be crashing upon your head and nothing seems to serve as a remedy? Have you ever passed through a test? Abraham was in that situation. After waiting for twenty-five years for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son from his wife Sarah, God calls him and makes the most unexpected request:
Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height (mountain) that I will point out to you.
YOUR TEST WILL COME FROM YOUR ISAAC
From the narrative, God described Isaac very well to demonstrate the connection and affection Abraham has for him; “…your only one, whom you love.” For us, Isaac represents everything that is so precious and dear to us. Isaac represents anything that appeals to us as a treasure. Your Isaac is where your heart is (Matt. 6:21).
The message of today tells us that our test would come from our Isaac. Your test cannot come from anything that does not appeal to you. The Lenten call for repentance, fasting, and abstinence relates to giving up our Isaac. God is inviting us this season to give up the numerous Isaacs in our lives. Often, we think that when we give up our Isaac, life will become tasteless and bitter. Sometimes we believe that our Isaac determines our future and without our Isaac, we shall become nothing. That is false!
Your Isaac could be those actions and thoughts that have become so habitual to you that you seem to be helpless and hopeless without them. It could be a person or thing to whom you have this attachment that is threatening your relationship with God. It could be a place you like to visit that stops your visit to God; it could be anything that stands in opposition to your spiritual moral, and even psychological well-being.
Life is all about our decision. In the case of Abraham, he made up his mind to sacrifice his Isaac, and he was not joking about it because he made all the physical arrangement for a holocaust (burnt sacrifice) to God, represented by the altar, wood, fire, and knife. He did not know that the test was heading to testimony, but he believed in the one who gave the instructions; faith does not ask how? He had to let go, and God provided; he gave up his Isaac with faith, and God gave him back his Isaac with a blessing. He passed through the test and received the testimony!
Years past it was Abraham, our father in faith and his son Isaac. Today it is you and your Isaac. We all have our Isaacs, and this is the time to give them up so that our Lenten journey would become fruitful.
In the Gospel today, we read about the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor with Peter, James, and John as witnesses. The journey to the mountaintop represents our Lenten journey. They left the crowd at the foot of the mountain and headed to the clouds at the top of the mountain. Lent is the spiritual journey that is leading us to a glorious end. The journey might be rough, do not be discouraged it will lead us to a magnificent encounter and like Peter, we would say, “it is wonderful for us to be here.”
In several places in the Bible, we could see God having encounters with people on the mountain. The First Reading recalls the experience of Abraham with God on one of the heights at Moriah. We could see numerous mountain encounters with Moses (Exodus 19:3ff; 33:18-23; 34:28), Elijah (1 Kings 18:41-46), and our Lord Jesus Christ who taught severally on the mountain and transfigured, died, and ascended from a mountain. Climbing a mountain is equivalent to letting go or giving up some things because mountain climbers go light.
As we journey still farther into the Lenten season, let us ask God to help us to give up the contending Isaacs in our lives to be able to reach the heights with him at the end of the season. May God bless your Lenten journey and have a splendid week ahead.