Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer
St. Hyacinth Church, Amarillo, Texas
Immaculate Conception Church, Vega, Texas
The hunters I know don’t read the Bible much,
but they’re good at reading trails.
Most trails are easy to follow.
You can easily spot bent blades of grass in the meadows.
traveled by does and fawns
as they hurry from one protective stand of trees to another.
But these aren’t the trails traveled by the bucks.
Bucks travel alone and are exceptionally wary.
They seldom move out of dense cover.
They might travel a well-established route…but only occasionally.
Sometimes, they seem to lay down trails that lead nowhere.
Hunters call these trails “teasers.”
They lead nowhere but confusion.
Today’s story about Abraham taking his son Isaac
to some primitive altar of stone in the land of Moriah
is a teaser trail.
You don’t have to be a hunter to encounter one.
If you’ve ever clutched a wheel in a car following an ambulance
speeding your daughter to Northwest Hospital…
you’ve been on that twisted trail to Moriah.
If you’ve ever received a call at 3 a.m.
and found yourself driving to the Potter County Detention Facility
to pick up your son…
you’ve been on this kind of trail.
* * *
I recall a night when a young man from my parish named Sam
was stabbed and critically injured.
I rushed to the hospital and prayed with his parents.
And all we could say was
“Don’t take him from us, Lord!”
Our prayers were polite;
the words the prayers were respectful.
But what we meant to say was:
“Don’t ask this of us, God,
don’t you dare ask this of us!”
I’ve been on that trail.
You’ve been on that trail.
But none of us want to be on that trail.
* * *
When Abraham received the command to sacrifice his son,
he didn’t immediately leave for Mt. Moriah,
The Bible tells us that Abraham first spent some time cutting wood.
This means he had some time to think.
The next thing the Bible tells us is that the journey to Moriah took three days.
This means Abraham had more time to think.
Finally, when they got to the foot of the mountain,
Abraham took the wood from the two servants who had accompanied them
and told them to wait there until they got back.
He then loaded the wood on the back of Isaac and they set off up the mountain.
Abraham had yet more time to think.
It doesn’t indicate that Abraham pleaded with God
or that the attempted to bargain with God
or that he even got angry with God for making such a demand.
Some might see in this an indication
that Abraham’s faith was unquestioning.
That, already, Abraham had decided to submit to God,
even to the point of sacrificing his own son.
But I read this passage from the perspective of Sam’s bedside
and I find the silence of Abraham
reminiscent of that point in our pleading where silence sets in
and there is nothing more to say.
Was our desperate pleading a sign of weak faith?
Were we unwilling to let go of Sam…if we had to?
Because God does not lay down teaser trails…
and the trail that Abraham took was but the beginning.
The true God blazes only trails that are true.
And the trail of true faith does not end on Moriah…it continues
The Christian faith leads us not to a mountain called Moriah,
but to a hill called Calvary
and the scarred back of another son
bent beneath a heavy burden of wood.
Not a child named Isaac, but a Savior named Jesus.
My friends, when Abraham removed the wood from Isaac’s back,
God had already planned to place that wood on the back of his own son.
And someday he would take the knife from the hand of Abraham
and fashion it into a spear in the grip of a Roman centurion.
The trail ends with our willingness to make a sacrifice for God.
It ends with God’s sacrifice of love for us.
And that sacrifice finds it ending
not on an empty cross
but inside an empty tomb.