Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Feb. 25: Second Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The lamb’s role                                                           

Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10

The story involving Abraham and Isaac in today’s first reading is one of those biblical accounts that have evoked a variety of responses. The early church’s preachers and theologians found in the story a type of the death of Christ. Historians of religion and anthropologists consider it a rejection of child sacrifice by ancient Israel. Christian spiritual writers speak of it as illustrating how faith is tested.

Jewish tradition focuses its attention on the figure of Isaac, naming the story the “Aqedah,” “the binding of Isaac.” That retelling of the story highlights Isaac’s readiness to be sacrificed in obedience to the command God has given to Abraham, his father.

Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet, composed a poem titled “The True Hero of the Aqedah.” The poem’s first line identifies the ram as the hero of the Aqedah. The sacrifice of the ram made it possible for the story to have a happy ending.

God is pleased with Abraham. The angel prevents Abraham from harming his child and Abraham is saved from the awful prospect of having to sacrifice his son. Isaac does not have to die. All turns out well for the characters in the story, except for the ram that is sacrificed in place of Isaac.

In a wider sense, Amichai’s poem is a challenge to all people in wealthy, developed countries, especially the United States. Our lifestyle is made possible by people from poor, underdeveloped countries. Workers from these countries produce our clothing, athletic shoes,
iPhones and other consumer goods for wages that fail to lift them out of poverty.

Our appetite for the resources of underdeveloped countries has resulted in the loss of habitat, local climate change, and the destruction of land resources driving the people of these countries further into poverty. The people of underdeveloped countries are the rams who are being sacrificed for the sake of the lifestyles of people in the wealthy countries of the world.

The story of God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac and the subsequent sacrifice of the ram in Isaac’s place compels us to consider the how and when God’s children will be able to enjoy the good things that God has given to the world, and which so many of us take for granted.

Today’s Gospel gives an account of the Transfiguration and presents Jesus as someone who stands in continuity with the traditions of ancient Israel embodied by Elijah and Moses. Still, Peter was bewildered by what he was seeing: “He hardly knew what to say” (Mk 9:6). This suggests that solutions to the ethical challenges we face are not easy to come by. Still, all of us bear a special responsibility to the rams of this world.



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