Lent is a time of testing. In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, there for forty days to be tempted and tested by Satan.
Now in the first line of today’s first reading we hear “God put Abraham to the test.”
Lent is a time of testing, and these are pretty heavy duty tests, worse than the Iowa Test of Basic Skills our grade-schoolers take, worse than the ACTs those applying for college take, worse than the LSAT’s applicants to law school take, worse than any standardized test.
Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness, with no food, surrounded by wild beasts. Pretty tough.
Abraham’s test today is likewise pretty drastic: “Then God said, ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, … you shall offer him up as a holocaust…” That is a pretty tough test. It seems cruel.
When God gives you a test, God doesn’t fool around. Indeed, we can say that the demands of God are unreasonable, unbalanced, not at all proportionate, just way over the line.
Why? Because God’s love is not reasonable, not “appropriate”, not measured, not balanced, not in any way keeping with any scale that is human. From our human perspective God is a little nuts.
Because God loves passionately, totally, completely, fully, entirely, with all God’s being. God loves us so much that even after we snubbed God, said NO to God, turned away from God, God could not let us go. And God sent His only beloved Son to repair the damage, to re-create the bond of harmony between humanity and God. And the way Jesus did this was by offering his entire self to God on the Cross. That was the ultimate test.
Every one of us also faces a tough test. It is called LIFE. Ultimately, ¿do we give in to pride, envy, gossip, lust, laziness, greed, selfishness and hate, ¿or do we give ourselves away in compassion, in service, in honesty, in fidelity, in love? Life is a test, and it is a damn hard one. It is a doozy.
Left to our own devices, it is pretty certain that we will fail. We fail in our resolve every day, and for many of us every hour. As Dorothy Day said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” That is a tough test.
But we are not alone. As the second reading from St Paul today assures us: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God is not the enemy. God is very much on our side. God passionately and desperately wants you to win; to truly be from your deepest core of your being to the tips of your fingers and toes, a loving person of integrity and generosity. God yearns for you to be fully alive.
It is simple logic. As the Jerusalem Bible states St. Paul’s reasoning in our second reading: “Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that God will not refuse anything he can give.”
God desperately wants us to ace the test of life.
In today’s Gospel we hear of Jesus transfigured, His Divine Glory shining through, to encourage the disciples. May we open the eyes of our hearts to see Jesus’ divine glory, // and keeping our eyes on the prize, confidently go forth to live as Jesus did, in harmony with - and obedience to - the Father.
Have a Blessed Lent!