“Here I am!” What a response we hear from Abraham on this Second Sunday of Lent. It can seem so simple—of course Abraham would respond with trust in God, right? Yet, in-between the lines of our text, I can only imagine the grief and internal struggle Abraham would have faced in responding to God. Picture this scene with me. Abraham is a person of faith, and so when he hears God the first time, he responds as usual. ‘Here I am’ or in the words of the responsorial psalm, ‘Oh LORD, I am your servant.’ But this time, God has an unusual request. God directs Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and in fact, we read that God fully knows the significance of this request. After all, God says, ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love…’ Just a few chapters before this, God promises Abraham that he will be the ancestor of a multitude of nations, and God fulfills this word through Isaac’s birth. And now, God is asking Abraham to give back the very gift that God had given to him? Is God just testing Abraham’s faith, although in a cruel way?
Often times, we skip right to the end of this reading, to its resolution where God is faithful to the promise and Isaac is spared, all because Abraham unwaveringly followed God’s lead. But this does a disservice to the type of wrestling with God that naturally flows from a life of discipleship. Perhaps instead this passage is a story about interior freedom. God is calling Abraham to a holy indifference in his relationship with God and the way he lives out his faith. This isn’t an indifference that’s careless or detached from reality, but a recognition that all truly does belong to God, even one’s hopes and deepest desire. Abraham has the interior freedom of gifting back to God the very promise, or holy desire, that God had given him in his old age, trusting that God is always faithful to God’s word. Even as Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, whom he loves, Abraham still responds to God a second time with those three words—“Here I am!” Despite Abraham’s attachment to God’s promise, it’s because of this interior freedom that he is able to hear God call his name. Rather than answering with apprehension or resentment, Abraham still responds in faith as God once again shows him a different path forward. The Lenten season that we are entering is a reminder that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” Like Abraham, we are being invited deeper into a holy indifference, into the truth that everything belongs to God.
Lent is a time of looking inward, of noticing the ways that our habits and priorities aren’t oriented towards God, towards this call to detachment. A life of discipleship is a life open to allowing God to work through us, even though that sometimes means letting go of good ministries, places, relationships, and personal ambitions. It’s through this holy indifference that God transforms our interior lives in a way that is reflected in how we live. The responsorial psalm reads: “I believed, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” Answering the call to detachment can be difficult, and feel like too big a sacrifice, especially when responding to God means letting go. Again, I can only imagine how Abraham felt. But by dying to ourselves—to any attachments that stand in the way of our loving self-gift back to God—we become free enough to hear the unique, and surprising, ways that God calls us to live our discipleship anew each day.
What attachments do you have that are obstacles to cultivating the interior freedom to which God calls you? What gets in the way of your turning back to God and wholeheartedly responding with Abraham “Here I am”? Success, recognition, security, imposter syndrome, an unwillingness to engage with different opinions? Lent is a time of repentance for the ways we have not responded to God’s call to discipleship with generosity or freedom. It’s only in cultivating a spirit of interior freedom, of asking God for this grace in our daily activities, that we can offer back to God the gift of our lives. And in this process of letting go of our attachments, knowing the cost of discipleship, and still choosing to be faithful, we can better hear God speak to us of our belovedness, of our common belonging in God. This Lenten season, let us examine our interior attachments so that we can freely respond with Abraham, “Here I am,” and allow God to transform our lives.
Salena Ibrahim is earning her Masters of Divinity at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Her work focuses on theologies of migration and liberation, and preferences a feminist lens. Most recently, she worked as a Graduate Minister in Residential Ministry at Boston College, accompanying residential students and facilitating Jesuit tradition programming. Prior to this, Salena served as a Jesuit Volunteer (’20-21) and Associate University Minister at the University of Detroit Mercy. There, she primarily worked with students involved in faith, service, and justice initiatives. Salena is interested in intersections of faith, migration ministry, and student formation. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new coffee shops and hiking spots. Salena is originally from Chicago, IL where she completed her BSEd in Secondary Education and BA in English at Loyola University.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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