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  • Writer's pictureFr. Satish Joseph

Obedience: Walking in the Footsteps of Christ

The story of Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac mystifies me on multiple levels. Even though surrounding cultures like the Ammonites practiced human sacrifice, it was never part of the Judaic tradition. God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac was out of the ordinary for the Judaic faith. But Abraham obliges without questions or protest. The story ends well. Perhaps we can say, “All is well that ends well,” and set the story aside. But embedded within the story are powerful messages for our faith and spirituality.     

 

In three points I would like to explore and reflect upon these messages.

 

“Take your son… whom you love.”

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, God did not ask like a heartless tyrant, even though the demand sounds unreasonable. God said, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and… offer him up as a holocaust.”  (Gen 22:2). The language tells us that God understands the depths of Abraham’s love for Isaac. Literally, Isaac was a miracle child. There was nothing more precious for Abraham and Sarah than Isaac. No one knew that more than God.

 

To get into the deeper implications of the story, we have to understand it from the perspective of God’s plan of salvation. Even though, Abraham does not foresee it, this story will be repeated in the reverse. There will come a time in salvation history when God will place God’s own Son unconditionally in humanity’s hands.

 

Let me ask you, “What is the most precious thing in your life?” Would you do what Abraham did? If yes, why? If not, why not? What does that say about your relationship with God? Perhaps this week we can reflect on God’s demand from Abraham, Abraham’s response to God, God’s entrusting Jesus to humanity, and the implications of these for us.

 

“All this because you obeyed my command”.

The second part of the reading about Abraham ends with a repetition of God’s promise to Abraham even before Isaac was born. The promise is, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” The part that caught my attention is where God says, “But all this, because you obeyed my command?” Note the emphasis on obedience.

 

At the Transfiguration, we see that same emphasis on obedience. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9:7). Peter wanted to build three tents. But the God of Abraham was leading them to obedience to the Son.

 

The link between the obedience of Abraham and the blessing that followed is truly interesting. Had Abraham refused to obey, would the promise still hold? We cannot speculate. However, we can say that later in salvation history, Jesus’ obedience to the Father led to the greatest blessing of all – human redemption.

 

This week, reflect on both the call to obedience and the link between obedience and unforeseen blessings. Where are we being called to “listen to Him?” Perhaps unforeseen blessings await us as well. Surely, heaven awaits those who are obedient to God’s will.

 

"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

At the Transfiguration, when the voice from the cloud said, “Listen to him?” what did that mean?

 

We know from the rest of the gospel in Mark that Jesus and the disciples went down the mountain and Jesus predicted that he would be killed and then rise from the dead.

 

It is reasonable, then, to conclude that to “Listen to him,” meant following in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus’ life is the will of God for humanity. His words, his actions, his relationship with God and other human beings, including his enemies is God’s will for all of humanity. The way Jesus lived his life is the model for every human person.

 

This week, let us reflect on our lives from the perspective of “listen to him”. Let us look at the choices we make; let us assess our priorities; let us evaluate our relationship with God and others. In these and other aspect of our lives, I hope we find that we are striving to “listen to Him.”

 

We celebrate the Eucharist in obedience to Jesus’ command, “Do this in memory of me.” May our celebration of the Eucharist help us to “listen to him,” and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Amen. 


  • Fr. Satish Joseph


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