Where is the Lamb?
In last Sunday’s Gospel, Our Lord was tested in the desert by being tempted by Satan. This week we hear how Abraham was tested by God, when God told him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This might seem like the worst kind of barbarism towards children, but when we look at the text, it is Isaac who carries the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice. The wood would have been extremely heavy, so Isaac certainly wasn’t a small child. Rather he was a strong, albeit young man. But still, this is an extraordinary test of Abraham’s faith and obedience. As Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb?” “God Himself will provide the lamb” replied Abraham. Suddenly an Angel appeared and prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son, and Abraham looked up and saw a ram (a male sheep), caught in the thorns of a bush by its horns, and this was to be the offering in sacrifice. Many of the Fathers of the Church see the ram as a prefiguring of Christ. Just as the ram is caught by its horns in a thorn bush, so Christ wears a crown of thorns. And just as the ram is the substitute for Isaac, so Christ is the substitute who will lay down His life so that the world may be saved. He is the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
It is significant that Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, the same location where Solomon was to build the Temple, and which was also within the sight of Mount Calvary where Our Lord was crucified.
In today’s Second Reading, St Paul reminds us that while God spared Abraham’s son, He did not hesitate to sacrifice His own. Sacrificing Christ proves that there is nothing God will not do to save us – such is His love for us. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, JESUS shows Himself in all His glory to Peter, James and John to help prepare them for His upcoming Passion and Death, thus strengthening their faith. So there is a balance then between the Cross and the Resurrection, and so God gives us crosses as well as joys. But whatever crosses we are asked to carry, Christ will help us carry them. Let us ask Him to help us do the same for those suffering around us, and thus we become His instruments.
Fr Paul Gillham IC