In the reading from the book of Genesis that we just heard the author tell us that God put Abraham to a test. To be honest with you, I have a problem about 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 is not God who tests us but rather it is life that really tests us.
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 he deeply held faith in the goodness of God. The lesson for us is that courage comes forth from faith.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul was calling the Christians in Rome to have that courage. He said: 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 today’s Gospel 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 there, 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 busyness that oppresses so many of us, draining us, and causing us to 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 very serious illness, 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 as we do so many daily tasks we seem not to have the opportunity to go within ourselves, to 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 from 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.