Genesis 22:1-19 Reflection:
We have a long reading for the first reading today. It is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham is told by God to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice and Abraham obeys.
We all know the story; at the last minute God intervenes and stops Abraham saying that he himself will provide what is to be sacrificed, in this case a ram.
Because of his act of complete trust in the Lord, Abraham is promised many descendents and we count ourselves as 'sons of Abraham in faith.'
Yet there is another point to the sacrifice of Isaac. At the time Abraham lived, human sacrifice, particularly of the first born son, was common in the middle east. It was regularly practiced by the Jews.
Many people see in this story the putting to an end of human sacrifice, which was a great leap forward in the understanding of the dignity of the person. Seen in this light, the sacrifice of Isaac and the fact that God prevented it from happening by saying that a ram was sufficient sacrifice, was a whole change in the relationship of God and man.
God was re-affirming humanity as something special, as something that was above being sacrificed and the family as too important to be broken up.
Seen in this light, the sacrifice of Abraham is not something terrible but something of a milestone in the development of human history.