Today’s First Reading has one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire Bible.
Yahweh God instructs Abraham to slaughter his son, Isaac as an offering.
Whether the event actually happened I have no idea, and actually find the question irrelevant.
What I do find worth reflecting on is the mythos or sacred story behind what is written.
As Etty Hellisum said in beginning her diary, ‘Here goes then’. Early in 1971 I left my family home and entered the seminary to begin my studies and formation necessary to become an ordained priest in the Catholic Church.
Only in recent years have I reflected on the impact that must have had on my parents.
At the age of 17 I was more like Bilbo Baggins, from Lord of The Rings, taking my hat from the stand, closing the garden gate, and saying, ‘Well, that’s that,’ he said. ‘Now I’m off!’ Bilbo chose his favourite stick from the stand; then he whistled.
I am certain that they were delighted to have a son in such a formation house, however, there was also a giving away that must have had some impact on their lives.
Visiting occasions were infrequent in those days (from memory, twice a year); my parents would ‘load the car up’ with my siblings and would drive from Wellington to Hawkes Bay – sometimes there and back in the one day!
So, on each visit there was another ‘letting go’ to be experienced.
When reading this Sunday’s first reading, (Genesis Ch. 22) I confess to being somewhat alarmed at its potential brutality. Abraham, the father being ‘commanded’ to give away his son, Isaac.
Parents know that there comes a time when they have to let go of their sons / daughters, even though they are more precious to them than anything else.
They may have to let them go to another country or to another city for study or work purposes; they may have to let them go to another person whom they have chosen as their future spouse.
Yet, in letting go of their children, parents invariably discover that they receive them back as a gift.
Single people too have to learn the gift of letting go.
What is learned is that the freedom of letting go what is precious is so as to receive it back as a gift.
In the State Hermitage Museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia there hangs an artwork by the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijin with the title “The Sacrifice of Isaac”.