A time of testing. A time of purification
We always begin Lent with the story of Jesus going into the desert to fast, pray, and face temptation. This was the story last weekend. Jesus faced his hunger and temptation and overcame.
This weekend the scriptures continue the theme of testing and purification. In the first reading it says that, “God put Abraham to the test.” And what a difficult test it was. God had given Abraham a son in his old age. His only beloved son. God told Abraham to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice.
The parallel is so clear. The church has always understood this story as a sign of God’s love for the world in giving his only beloved Son. This was the ultimate test for Abraham. Did he trust God? It’s a test that is almost incomprehensible to us today. But Abraham was willing to give up his beloved son, the son of promise, because of his complete trust in God. Because of his complete trust, he passed the test. Isaac was spared. A ram was offered in his place. The blessing was pronounced by God over Abraham and all of his descendants – a blessing that would impact all the nations of the world.
A time of testing. A time of purification.
We continue our Lenten preparation for Easter through fasting, prayer, and generosity. We face our own testing and temptations. Remember what we learned in the parish mission last week? It is a great clue for facing the our own test and becoming purified. Let’s remember the ABC’s of Divine Mercy.
A. Ask. Ask and you shall receive.
B. Be Merciful. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall see God.
C. Complete Trust.
There is something about our willingness to place ourselves in the hands of God that helps us to face the test and be purified. Abraham did this, Isaac was spared, and the blessing given to Abraham continues to be poured out on us.
We need to be reminded of the blessing that comes from placing ourselves in the hands of God, because the world is once again entering a significant time of testing and purification. For so many in the world – people in the Middle East, in North Africa, and throughout the Orient, they have no choice but to place their lives in the hands of God. Consider the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by the Jihadists. Consider the nearly 200 Christians recently kidnapped by the Jihadists, facing the same terror. Consider the millions of people in various parts of the world who have experienced persecution, who have lost nearly everything for the sake of their faith. Here in Marion County, we have not yet faced that particular test. But who can say that in the coming years that this test won’t come to our doors? Some here among us have already faced extreme situations and know what it is like to place complete trust in God.
It is a time of testing. A time of purification.
Jesus himself shows us the way. He climbed the mountain and was revealed as the true son of Abraham, the beloved one. Jesus is the lamb of sacrifice, God’s beloved son, sent to suffer, die, and then be raised from the dead. He alone truly passed the time of testing and purification. It is Jesus himself who leads us through the test. He is the one who can give us the courage to pray the words from Psalm 116 that says, “I believed, even when I said, I am greatly afflicted. Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
The rising of Jesus from the dead gives us faith and courage to truly live those ABC’s of Divine Mercy.
We have the faith and the courage to Ask. Confident that we will receive all the grace we need to pass the test and enter into life.
We have the faith and the courage to Be Merciful. For God has poured his mercy upon us. And entering into the mercy we shall indeed behold the face of God.
We have the faith and the courage to place our Complete Trust in God. We also can offer ourselves totally to the Father. Just like Abraham and Isaac did. Just like the saints who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith.
This is the lent of testing and purification.
God our heavenly Father instructs us to listen carefully to Jesus. He speaks to us the word of faith that strengthens us. He speaks to us the word of mercy that cleanses us. He speaks to us the words of eternal life, leading us to our heavenly homeland. Listen to him, dear brothers and sisters, and be transfigured. May his glory shine on us.