Choose Life

"I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps 115).

The dramatic story of the testing of Abraham's faith makes us shudder at the though of being asked by God to sacrifice our own child. The ancient context suggests that human sacrifice was prevalent in many societies-- the absolute offering to gain absolute blessing from the sovereign who held your fate in its hands.  The clear message of the story is that Yahweh, the Lord of the Jews, did not ask for such sacrifice and prevents Abraham from carrying through on what he thought he was being called to do to show his obedience. 

Evolving ideas of God are reflected in the Bible. Genesis and Exodus offer a very anthropomorphic version of God -- one who gets angry or jealous -- before a more sophisticated and spiritually nuanced divine Mystery appears.  As people mature, the image of God they project also matures. What is revealed over time is the God who is filled with love for his people, one who gives life and wants us to choose life. 

We see this in Matthew's gospel passage, the story of the forgiveness and healing of the paralyzed man. The religious teachers are upset with Jesus for presuming that God has forgiven the paralytic's sins. They prefer a God who punishes sinners with illness, or one who must be appeased with sacrifices before giving a blessing. Jesus presumes a God who is always forgiving and who neither causes nor wants human sickness and suffering.  This is too much for Jesus' critics, who fear the end of religious control and their own role as arbiters of God's actions.

Jesus is the human face of God, and he has brought us the Good News of liberation from fear and the gift of mercy. As Pope Francis has said, "God never tires of forgiving us; it is we who tire of asking." Jesus came that we might have life, abundant life.