Sunday Homily: The Story in Genesis that Speaks to Us Today
There is a powerful lesson for us in 2021 in Abraham's almost sacrifice of Isaac
Today’s first reading is the story of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to show his love for God. Of course, just as he is about to kill his son an angel stops him and tells him that he has proven his love.
Now three thousand years later or more, we ask the question, why would the God we know do this? It makes no sense. Many people refuse to believe in God because of this story. Well, they do not understand the context.
Abraham is the father of our faith. There is no other before him. So, he is not only the father of our faith he is the first to follow God. There is also Melchizedek but he is a mysterious figure who may have been Christ himself.
Many people do not realize that human sacrifice was a common practice in many societies right up until the Roman Empire and it is still practiced today in some cultures.
God is telling Abraham to show his love as he would to other gods and he obeys. In surrounding cultures, he would be sacrificing his son. When God stops him just before Abraham sacrifices Isaac, he is teaching Abraham that he demonstrated his love to Him in a way the man understood but this God unlike others does not demand human sacrifice. Therefore, human sacrifice is prohibited among the Jews for the entire length of their existence right from this moment.
In fact, when they strayed, they engaged in human sacrifice the most famous passage citing this is in Jeremiah when the people are sacrificing their children to Moloch. Many societies throughout history right to today practice some form of human sacrifice including child sacrifice.
Isaac notices they are about to do the sacrifice, he is carrying the wood for the fire but he notices that he does not see the ram to be sacrificed. This puzzles him. Abraham assures him that the Lord will provide and we learn he does after Abraham is told to stay his hand and not continue his sacrifice further. He has shown his love.
What is it that this speaks to us today?
Science vs faith.
Let’s look at the elements.
Isaac looks around. He observes and makes the deduction that there appears to be everything for the sacrifice except the animal. Abraham obeys God and although he knows that God has asked him to sacrifice his son, he also indicates that if God is God he will not have to carry it out. He is acting on faith.
Faith and science are never to be separate. Science is the natural way of growing in knowledge and faith is the supernatural way of growing in knowledge not available to science. We are called to live by both.
The key here is Abraham, he expects that God will find a solution and he does. However, Isaac has yet to know the faith of his father and so he works only by observation and deduces the truth from there. Isaac represents science without faith and Abraham represents faith and science.
We are called to be like Abraham which means that we build upon our own observations and deductions but we build further upon this to listen to what the Lord is calling us to do.
When I first returned to the church, I decided I should buy a bible. I was in the Navy and so went to the Navy Exchange to buy one. I had only five dollars on me and I could not find one within my price range. So I began to leave and then stopped. “No, I thought to myself, if God wants me back, I will find a bible I can afford.” I Iooked again and lo and behold, I found my first Bible which I kept for years until it fell apart. It was only five dollars. This was not a miracle it was using natural wisdom and faith to believe that what appeared to be the only correct outcome.
We are called to build upon our natural powers of reason and supplement them with faith. We must also supplement our faith with our natural powers of reason.
In one of my previous parishes, we had the case of a mother and her young son, I think he was eleven or twelve. They were in a car when they were t boned by a truck. The mother instinctively fell upon her son in the passenger seat to protect him. She died instantly. When the rescuers came they used the jaws of life to remove her body and then found her son still alive under her. They had no idea he was there. He was in a coma and they rushed him to the hospital. Doctors gave the grandmother the news that he had no chance of recovery.
She prayed and never stopped praying for months and never gave up hope. Now, even though I believe in miracles, I cannot promise them. I could encourage her to continue praying and did but I could not tell her to disregard the doctors. That would be wrong. She continued praying and praying and no one would get her to do otherwise. He would open his eyes for a minute or so and the doctors would tell her that is nothing and natural to his condition. He would move a hand and the same would happen. She still never gave up hope. Finally, he actually started to heal and ultimately he made a full recovery. She never gave up praying.
That was faith and science working together. Does it work all the time, well everything is up to the will of God. However, we are called to be people of faith and science and the best example for us today is Isaac and Abraham. Isaac makes his deductions through observation and is correct, but Abraham believes and builds upon that belief. You and I have to be people of faith and science or the whole world falls into the idolatry of believing in science without faith The council of Trent warns that to be a dangerous path away from God and into the path of evil. The other side is the foolishness of believing in faith without science.
What is communist philosophy? Science without faith. Whom do we blame for this in our world? Ourselves!
How should we respond? By repenting of our embracing science at the expense of faith. Instead of science supplemented by faith and faith supplemented by science. That means that we have to repent of the idolatry that leads us to embrace science and giving short thrift to faith. They are there because we have not lived the call God gives to us to embrace faith and science.
This week ask the Lord to deepen your faith so that we may live by faith and science.