Our God is a God of happy endings. I think it’s important that we know that, that we realize that, that we trust it, that we believe it, and that we experience it in our lives. Our God is a God of happy endings. We know that no matter what we go through, no matter what suffering we experience, no matter what difficulty we experience; our God is a God of happy endings.
I want to use that frame as we focus on the first reading here, the reading from the book of Genesis, which includes the sacrifice of Isaac with Abraham. Hopefully, when we hear this reading, we are shocked and troubled by it. Hopefully, we can’t comprehend how God would ever ask a father to sacrifice his only son. But remember, our God is a God of happy endings. Abraham knew this. He knew and believed and trusted in God.
I’m going to focus on the first reading and go through it, line-by-line, and help us to see how God is faithful and a God of happy endings. Abraham knows this and believes in it, so much so that he’s willing to sacrifice his only son.
We begin with this first phrase, “God put Abraham to the test.” Isn’t that interesting that our God would put us to the test, and why would he put us to the test? The answer is our God is a God of happy endings. When he puts us to the test, he knows that there is going to be something good that comes out of it. Throughout our lives, he will put each and every one of you to a test to see how faithful you are and to see if you truly believe that God can be trusted.
He calls out to Abraham and he calls him by name. He says, “Abraham.” We know how important it is that when God calls us by name he’s asking something great of us. Abraham says, “Here I am.” That simple phrase is a phrase that says, “I come to do your will.” We know this from the Psalm: “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” God calls Abraham and immediately Abraham says, “Here I am, I come to do your will.” God explains to him what he wants him to do, what this test will be. He says, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love.” In other translations, in Greek, the phrase “your only one” is actually translated as “your beloved son.” Does that sound familiar? We heard that in the gospel today. “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Isaac is the beloved son, and he’s actually an image of what Christ will be when he comes. God says, “Take your only one, your beloved son, whom you love, and go to the land of Mariah,” which is a huge mountain. Then he says, “Then you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” Notice he tells him to go there, but he doesn’t say anything more. He says that he will point it out to him once he arrives.
So Abraham takes his son, Isaac, and just begins walking in faith. They don’t even know where they are going. They just know that when they get there the Lord is going to point it out to them. It sounds like St. Joseph, when the angel came to him and said, “Go to Bethlehem. Go to Egypt.” He didn’t say much more than to go, and I will point it out to you.
When they finally get there after this journey, it is believed that Isaac was not a young child. He was anywhere between the age of his mid-twenties to mid-thirties, so he could have been the age of Christ. Isaac went along willingly, faithfully, not knowing. God tells them to stop at this place and to build an altar. Abraham builds the altar without questioning and arranges the wood on the altar. Now, any time we hear wood in scripture, what is that wood referring to? The wood of the cross. Every time we hear about wood in scripture, it’s a reference to the wood of the cross. God tells Abraham to build this altar, to place wood on it, and then he lays Isaac on the altar. He reaches out, takes a knife, and he’s ready to slaughter his son. As he’s ready to slaughter his son, the Lord’s messenger calls out from heaven and says, “Abraham, Abraham.” Abraham says, “Here am I, Lord, I’ve come to do your will.” The Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy. Do not do the least thing to him.” Abraham stops what he’s doing. He does God’s will at the moment and doesn’t harm his son. Then the voice said, “I know now how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your only beloved son.” God sees Abraham’s faithfulness that he is willing to even sacrifice his only son. God spares him of this because God knows that one day he will sacrifice his own son, Jesus, for all of us.
“Abraham looks around and spies a ram caught by his horns in the thicket.” I want you to notice two things there. A ram is a type of goat or sheep that they would use. Jesus is the Lamb of God. It’s caught in the thicket. What is the thicket made of? Thorns. What were thorns used for on Jesus? The crown of thorns. “So he went and took the ram, offered it up as a holocaust in place for his son, and the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven, and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly.’” God is the God of happy endings.
There’s going to be things in your life that he’s going to ask you to sacrifice. Maybe even perhaps this Lent we’ve made some sacrifice in our life in terms of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Maybe there’s someone that we’re too attached to or something that we’re too attached to or some place that we’re too attached to. God may be asking us to sacrifice and to give that up. But remember, God is the God of happy endings, so if you give that up, whatever it is that you may be too attached to, you’re going to experience a happy ending.
Abraham was promised his son, Isaac, and the Lord promised that Isaac would be this leader of great nations and would produce more children than you could ever imagine. He was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and say, “Lord, I don’t know how you’re going to fulfill this, but I do believe you are a God of happy endings.” In the Book of Galatians, we see that Abraham believed that even if he slaughtered his son God could bring him back to life. That’s why he was willing to do it. He knew that God was a God of happy endings and if he was going to slaughter his son, somehow or another, God was going to bring him back to life.
So, we hear that God spares him of this and sees how faithful he is, and then declares, “Your son’s descendants will be as countless as the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies and through your offspring all the nations of the earth find blessing. All this because you obeyed me.” Can we see that God is the God of happy endings? He takes a situation that seems like it’s going to end very horribly, and he makes it into something wonderful.
We hear in the gospel today, the Transfiguration, that Jesus is giving us an image of his glorified body. He’s showing us what the Resurrection will be like, even before he suffers and dies and rises. For each and every one of us, God wants to know our faithfulness. For all of us, life will test us, or rather, we will be tested in life in our faithfulness. That may come in your marriage. That may come in your children or grandchildren. That may come with friends. That may come with your work. Just living life in general. It might come through cancer or illness or depression or anxiety, or whatever it may be. We’re all going to experience some kind of test that we think is beyond our capability. But if we’re faithful, if we cling to God through it, we will discover a happy ending.
As we continue on this season of Lent, let your prayer, your fasting and your almsgiving allow you to take these steps towards God, allow you to surrender towards God, allow you to let go of anything that would keep you from loving him. Allow him to test you so that in the end we will all discover this God of happy endings.