THEME: JESUS, THE NEW ISAAC
READINGS: Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13/ Romans 8:31-34/ Mark 9:2-10
2nd Sunday of Lent
Beloved, today’s first reading narrates the story of Father Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2, 9-13). Similarly, the import of today’s gospel story of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is the loving will of God the Father to sacrifice His beloved and only-Begotten Son (cf. Mark 9:2-10). Then, today’s second reading affirms the amazing love which God demonstrates in offering His Son to save us all (Rom. 8:31-34).
Moses and the prophet Elijah appeared in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. They represent the Law and the prophets of the Old Testament respectively. In the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah would fade away leaving Jesus Christ alone. This implies that Jesus is the One who has come to fulfill both the Law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). That is, the Old Testament finds its full meaning in Jesus. In this light, the sacrifice of Isaac finds full meaning in or foreshadows the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Against this backdrop, we wish to reflect on Jesus as the new Isaac. In this homily, we will limit ourselves to seven (7) key points in the life of Isaac which find greater fulfilment in Jesus Christ:
- The name “Isaac”
- The beloved Son of the Father
- The Son’s full trust in the Father
- Obedient and submissive Son
- He was laid on the wood of sacrifice
- He died and came back to life
- The Son through whom God’s promise is fulfilled
- THE NAME “ISAAC”
The name “Isaac” means laughter (Gen. 17:17; 18:12), which implies the joy Abraham and Sarah had with the birth of their long-awaited son, through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled. Moreover, it is actually in Jesus Christ, the new Isaac, that God gives us the true joy – a joy beyond our imagination. Thus, an angel of God would announce joy to the world at the birth of Jesus, and a choir of angels joyfully sang (Luke 2:10-14).
This joy comes from experiencing an everlasting and indescribable glory, compared with which the glory of the transfiguration is a mere “comedy”. St. Paul expresses it this way: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it dawned on the mind [of humans] what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Thus, nothing we experience in this life comes close to the joy God is offering us in Jesus, the new Isaac. Let us, therefore, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus until we begin to enjoy the joy of heaven.
- THE BELOVED SON OF THE FATHER
According to the first reading, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac who was his beloved son (Gen. 22:2). Similarly, Jesus is the beloved Son of the Heavenly Father, as His voice declared in the transfiguration (Mark 2:7). Moreover, Jesus as the new Isaac is more unique and exceedingly greater than the old Isaac. Firstly, Jesus is unique because He is the only-Begotten Son of God, whereas the old Isaac was one of the several sons of Abraham (cf. Gen 16:15-16; 25:1-2.). Secondly, Jesus is exceedingly greater because He is first and foremost divine. Let us, therefore, trust absolutely in Him who is the unique Son of God without whom no one goes to the Father (cf. John 14:6).
- THE SON’S FULL TRUST IN THE FATHER
Isaac placed his full trust in his father, Abraham. For instance, when he asked his father about the lamb for sacrifice, he fully accepted Abraham’s response that God will provide (Gen. 22:7-8). Jesus, more so, trusts in His Father, and this is very evident in His words at the point of His painful and humiliating death: “Father into your hands, I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). He, therefore, calls us to trust in His Father as well as in Him (John 14:1).
- OBEDIENT AND SUBMISSIVE SON
Isaac was obedient and submissive to his father, Abraham. For instance, Isaac did not resist his father when he was tied up ready for sacrifice. More so, Jesus is obedient and submissive to Heavenly Father. A few Biblical indications may be helpful here: first, Jesus did not hold unto His equality with His Father, but humbly and obediently accepted to become human in order to be sacrificed (Phil. 2:5-11). Secondly, in the agony in the Garden, He preferred the Father’s will to His human will: “Father… not my will but your will be done” (Mark 14:36). Thirdly, He once declared to his disciples: “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me” (John 4:34). Beloved, with the help of God’s grace, let us always submit our will to the will of God.
- HE WAS LAID ON THE WOOD OF SACRIFICE
According to the first reading, Isaac laid on the pile of wood for sacrifice. Similarly, Jesus the new Isaac was laid on the wood of the cross. However, whereas the wood of the old Isaac was consumed while his life was spared, the cross of Jesus rather remained intact while His life was sacrificed. Secondly, whereas the wood of the old Isaac was burnt by fire, the cross of Jesus was soaked with His most precious and life-saving blood. May the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary bring us all eternal salvation.
- HE DIED AND CAME BACK TO LIFE
According to Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac journeyed for three days to reached the mountain in Moriah for the sacrifice. So, Isaac literally died and came back to life in three days (cf. Heb. 11:19). Jesus the new Isaac likewise died and resurrected on the third day. Moreover, the death of the new Isaac was actual and not figurative. Furthermore, whereas the old Isaac was replaced by a ram for sacrifice, Jesus the new Isaac actually died as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Beloved, may God who has offered His Son wipe away our sins anytime we confess them.
- THE SON THROUGH WHOM GOD’S PROMISE IS FULFILLED
Isaac was the son through whom God’s promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled (Gen. 17:17-19). Similarly, Jesus is the Son through whom God’s promise of salvation is fulfilled. Obviously, God’s promise in Jesus Christ is far greater. Firstly, the variety of human races and the multitude of people across countless generations to enjoy salvation through Jesus Christ exceed that of the old Isaac (cf. Rev. 7:9).
Secondly, whereas the Promised Land offered through the old Isaac is earthly, that which is promised through Jesus, the new Isaac, is heavenly. Thirdly, unlike the old Isaac, Jesus is not a mere channel through whom we receive God’s blessings, He is the very blessing of God the Father to us!
Fourthly, whereas old Isaac’s action as an instrument of blessings ended with his willingness to be sacrificed, Jesus’ work of saving mankind did not end with His sacrifice on the cross; it did not even end with His resurrection; for (according to the second reading), He has since been at the Father’s righthand interceding for us (Rom. 8:34).
Finally, beloved, just pause for a moment and think for a while about the fact that Jesus, the new Isaac, the beloved and only-Begotten Son of God, who offered the one perfect sacrifice, arose on the third day and ascended into heaven, is right now seated next to the Father in heaven, pleading for our forgiveness, soliciting for our salvation and some earthly blessings as well. Indeed, we are assured that He will continue to intercede for us until we meet Him in glory. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis