In the Book of Genesis (22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18), the author tells us that God put Abraham to the test. To be honest with you, I have a problem with that. My question is why would God need to test Abraham? Moreover, why would God need to test any one of us? He already knew what was in Abraham’s heart and He already knows what’s in our hearts. Maybe these are not really tests at all. I tend to think that these are opportunities that allow us to find out what’s really deep down within us.
I may be wrong but I think that it is not God who tests us but rather it is life that really tests us. The economic mess we are now in is testing our courage, our determination, and our will to make things better for us and for our children.
Our elected officials are being questioned and tested, for sure. They cannot escape our questioning, our questions that test them in order to find out what’s in their minds and hearts.
Catholics are being tested along with others who are pro-life and stand with us. The recent mandate by our government’s Department of Health and Human Services is putting us to the test and with that also the meaning of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Just what does the First Amendment mean when it says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
Just how free is the free exercise of our religion? Is it permissible for the Federal Government to dictate the policies and principles that govern the Catholic Church’s charities, schools, and hospitals… policies and principles that run counter to our standards of morality, policies and principles that we regard as sinful?
Abraham was found to have faith, a tremendously deep faith in the goodness of God. Because he had such a deep faith he was prepared to act courageously, to act with a courage that could only come from his deeply held faith in the goodness of God. The lesson for us is that courage comes forth from faith.
In his Letter to the Romans (8:31-34), St. Paul called the Christians in Rome to have that courage. Said he: Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
In the Gospel of Mark (9:2-10), we find Jesus being transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John. That event occurred just before Jesus was to go to Jerusalem, to suffer, to be judged, to be tortured, and to die on His Cross. It was a time of testing, a time of particular testing for Peter, James, and John.
In the end, faith carried Jesus through His death on the Cross and into His resurrection from the dead. That happened because of His faith in His Father’s love. And likewise, in the end, the faith of Peter, James, and John carried them through their times of testing not only in the death of Jesus but subsequently after His resurrection and ascension when those disciples and many early Christians along with them suffered testing and martyrdom because of their faith in and loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Deep within us there is a reality that we only discover when we face a major trial. We go about our daily lives, lives filled with doing this, that, or the other thing, commitments that require our time and attention. There is a busy-ness that oppresses so many of us, draining us, and causing us at times to wonder who we really are, what our lives are all about, and whether or not we mean anything to others. Most of the time we don’t pay, we can’t pay, much attention to our inner selves.
Then along comes a major event, a testing. We suffer a serious blow to our health. It may be that we find we have cancer, it may result from a heart attack, we may find we no longer have a job, or some such similar thing that crashes down on us. Perhaps we discover that our wife or our husband suffers from an incurable illness, or perhaps one of our children, or one of our parents is struck down. It could be a terrible accident; it could be that some dreadful thing that happens to one of our children.
Life tests us. Is it God’s doing? Many people easily blame God for whatever has gone wrong. I am not one of them. I don’t believe God is pleased either to inflict pain on us or is pleased to see us suffer. I do believe, however, that life tests us and that many times we suffer because of decisions made by others, decisions made through an uncaring lack of concern for us or decisions resulting from their selfishness. There is an evil force that wants to separate us from God.
In such moments we have an opportunity to see what we’re made of. In such moments we face self-revelation and we can find God’s good graces and His love abiding deep within us. Such was the case when the inner Jesus came to the surface in His transfiguration before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.
Facing so many daily tasks, we seem not to have the opportunity to go deep within ourselves and pay attention to what we’re made of. Yet our faith tells us that God made us in His image and likeness. Our faith tells us that who we really are is made up of the gifts of God with which He has endowed us.
When we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Church reminded us that we have been gifted by the Holy Spirit, gifted with wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgment, knowledge, courage, and reverence for God and the things of God. In times of our own testing, in times of our own trials, we need to give grateful attention to these gifts from God. They are a part of our inner reality, our inner selves.
So when a trail or misfortune comes your way, when you are faced with a serious challenge, do not lose heart. Call upon your faith in God and His help. Courage will come your way, itself being a gift from God. Remember you are a child of Abraham, our father in faith. Call upon those who have gone before you. After all, we belong to the Communion of Faith, our family of faith. Draw closer to God. Perhaps like Abraham and so many others who have gone before you, you will discover what’s deep within you. You will find out what you’re really made of. And along with Jesus, you will pass through your Good Fridays into Easter Sundays… and rise up in glory into a new life.