Genesis 22:1-18: The background to this passage is that Abraham is about 115 years old at this point. Isaac is about 15, and God has promised to continue His covenant through Isaac. Ishmael, Abraham’s first-born son, has been sent away;so all does rest on Isaac for God’s covenant to continue. In the midst of God’s blessing to give Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, the Lord calls on Abraham to “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering…” Unbeknownst to Abraham, this is a test, all Abraham knows is God’s command to sacrifice his son. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that God would somehow raise Isaac back to life. Abraham saddled his donkey and took his son, his only son, whom he loved, to the place God pointed out. It must have torn Abraham’s heart to hear the command of the Lord, and to hear the question of his son: where is the lamb for the offering? At the last moment the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand, and provided a ram for the offering. Notice all the times that Isaac is called “the only son of Abraham”. The confirmation students should perk up when vs. 17-18 are read; here we hear the words of the Lord to renew the 3-fold promise that the Lord gave to Abraham and is descendants: 1.land, 2. descendants, blessed to be a blessing. In Christ this 3-fold promise is fulfilled. In this passage the Lord stayed the hand of Abraham and substituted a ram for Isaac. Later the Lord would not stay His own hand, but would substitute His Son Jesus to take our sin upon Himself and be the sacrificial lamb in our place. God’s love for us is so great!
Psalm 25:1-10: Notice the dependence of the Psalmist on the Lord in this passage. He begins by asking the Lord to protect him from his enemies. We know in David’s life (David wrote the psalm) there were many enemies, from king Saul, to the Philistines, to his own son Absalom, but the Lord protected David from them all. Notice that once David has asked the protection of the Lord from his enemies, David then turns to the Lord, asking that the Lord would lead David in God’s ways. David ends with a doxology giving glory to God for Who God is and what God does. May David’s example of discipleship be part of our pattern for discipleship as well.
James 1:12-18: This reading continues the theme of remaining steadfast under trial. Notice that trials and temptations are different things in this passage, the Lord may try us, but He does not tempt us, temptations to sin come from the sinful self, the world, and the evil one. Notice how James ends this passage by proclaiming that blessings come from God. Let us keep straight in our minds and spirits that God may test us (cf. Abraham in the First Reading), but He does not tempt us, temptation has sinful sources, but the God is the source of all blessings.
Mark 1:9-15: This is a perfect passage to begin the Lenten journey. Notice that it begins with Jesus’ Baptism, immediately leads to the temptations of Jesus by the devil, and then concludes with Jesus active in ministry. This is the form and shape of the Christian life: our Christian life begins with Baptism, which puts us into immediate conflict with the devil and earthly powers, but that does not change our mission: we are to proclaim the kingdom of God and call people to repentance and faith. This will bring us into conflict with the sinful world, just as it did with Jesus, but we are called to follow Him, and this Gospel shows us what to expect and what to do.