The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1860

READINGS: Genesis 12:1-4 / 2 Timothy 1:8-10 / Matthew 17:1-9
2nd Sunday of Lent

Moses and the great prophet Elijah appeared in the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 17:1-9). Moses is the one through whom the Law was given, and Elijah represents the prophets of old. In short, then, Jesus Christ is the One who came to fulfil the Law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). In view of this, certain personalities of the Old Testament prefigured or foreshadowed Jesus Christ. In other words, certain events in the lives of such Old Testament personalities pointed to the mysteries of Jesus Christ. Obviously, then, our Lord is greater than them. For instance, Jesus Himself would speak of His death by referring to the prophet Jonah: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40). Moreover, He would make it clear that He is greater than Jonah (Matt. 12:41).

Elsewhere, when the Jews asked whether Jesus was greater than Abraham (John 8:53), He answered: ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad. Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:54-58).

It is in the light of the above that we wish to reflect on Jesus as the new Abraham. This theme is based on today’s first reading which narrates God’s call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-4). In this homily, let us limit ourselves to four (4) key points in the life of Abraham which find greater fulfilment in Jesus Christ:

  • Abraham left his father’s house
  • Abraham is a blessing unto others
  • The sacrifice of Abraham
  • A Model of Faith

Abraham left his father’s house: Genesis 12:1 reads: ‘The Lord said to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”’ Several centuries later, the land which the Lord God promised Abraham would become the land of freedom for the Israelites who were suffering in Egypt. Like Abraham, Jesus Christ, the new Abraham, would leave heaven, His Father’s house, in obedience to His Father. Thus, it is written: ‘at His coming into the world, Christ said: “…Here I am, to do your will, O God”’ (Heb. 10:5,7).

Moreover, unlike the old Abraham, Jesus Himself rather than the land that He came to live in is our refuge. And in His refuge, we have the sure access to heaven as our true Promised Land. Thus, Jesus assures us: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). Therefore, beloved, our absolute trust should be placed not in a land, in any material thing, or in any other person other than Jesus!

Abraham is a blessing unto others: The Lord God blessed Abraham and made him a blessing unto others: ‘I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you’ (Gen. 12:2-3). More than Abraham, Jesus is the One through whom we receive not just ordinary blessings but spiritual blessings: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 1:3). Once, again, let us place our absolute trust only in Jesus!

The sacrifice of Abraham: Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. This was a great act of Abraham. Nonetheless, Jesus, the new Abraham and the Beloved Son of God, performed the greater sacrifice of His very life. Indeed, the sacrifice of Jesus is the greatest, because it is the sacrifice of the very and only Son of God (cf. Phil. 2:6-11). It is the unique sacrifice which opens the door of spiritual blessings to us.

Furthermore, Isaac did not understand the sacrifice Abraham was about to make until they reached the mountain of sacrifice and an angel of God intervened (Gen. 22:7-8). Similarly, when St. Peter and the other apostles did not understand the sacrifice of Jesus’ suffering and death (Matt. 16:21-26), He made St. Peter, St. James and St. John experience His transfiguration on the mount (Matt. 17:1-9). Afterwards, St. Peter would testify to the fact they were eyewitnesses to the transfiguration in which the Heavenly Father declared Jesus as Beloved Son and by implication as the One who offers the sacrifice that saves the world (2 Peter 1:16-19). Once, again, let us place our absolute trust only in Jesus!

A Model of Faith: By faith, Abraham left his father’s house even when he was not certain of the location of the promised land; by faith, he still believed at age 99 that he would become the father of many nations even though Isaac was yet to be born; and by faith he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, the son through whom Abraham would become a father of many nations (Gen. 12 and 22; cf. Heb. 11:8-10, 17-19). St. Paul, therefore, rightly refer to Abraham as our father in faith (Rom. 4:12-25). Nonetheless, Abraham’s faith was not perfect, for when the birth of Isaac seemed delayed, he agreed to have a child with his maid. On the other hand, Jesus is not just a great model of faith, but the very author and perfecter of our faith. Thus, Scripture says: ‘Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2). He is the author of our faith because our faith originates from Him; and He is the perfecter of our faith because He demonstrates how to be absolutely steadfast in our faith as well as gives us the grace to grow in faith. Let us, therefore, fix our eyes on Jesus.

Conclusion: Beloved, Father Abraham rejoiced to see our Lord Jesus Christ, because through our Lord, all (including Abraham) have access to the heavenly Promised Land; because our Lord is the blessing to all (including Abraham); because our Lord offered Himself in the one perfect sacrifice which saves all (including Abraham); and because our Lord is the author and perfecter of the faith of all (including Abraham). Finally, therefore, let us fix not only our eyes, but our minds, our hearts, our strengths and our souls on Jesus. Amen!

By Msgr. John Kobina Louis

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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