2nd Sunday of Lent: The Silenced Voices that God Hears

BY JUSTIN CLARAVALL, SJ | February 25th, 2024
Today’s readings
Versión en español

Abraham failed the test, according to more recent interpreters. Growing consciousness of the
nonviolent God revealed in Jesus Christ gives us the space to disagree with the long-
standing interpretation. Jewish teachers like Rashi have found ways to read against an
interpretation characterizing the Holy One as a bloodthirsty chieftain, demanding child sacrifice
and blind obedience. No – every tribe already had those gods, but Abraham and his
descendants were to reveal the true God to the world.

I once gave a parishioner a ride to her home in a neighborhood with subsidized housing. I asked
about her children. One joined the Marines a couple years ago, another joined the Air Force last
year, and another is on his way through the local public high school without a clue what to do
afterward. She told me her dream was that at least one of her children would go to college. She
worries for her children, who may be sacrificed to the god of war by our government. We can
shrug our shoulders or raise a fist righteously – the military pays for college and the innocent
demand protection. Who’s worried about Russia and China? Who’s angry about Israel and
Hamas? Who’s afraid of those who cross the southern border? We know a god who fixes these
problems with the time-tested solution of scapegoating and violence.

I don’t believe in a god that demands blind obedience or child sacrifice – either His own or those
of the poor. I don’t believe in a god who tests loved ones. I believe instead in the God who
always sides with the victims. In this reading, Isaac is silent. The lectionary cut his line. But the
victims always have a voice, and I’ve failed to hear them many times over. They test the limits of my compassion. But if you fail the test, you’re forgiven…the Divine Victim still invites you and I to listen.

Who are the people that tend to be silenced in your community?
How can you use whatever privileges you have to make their voices heard?

10 replies
  1. Marc Trudeau
    Marc Trudeau says:

    I have always interpreted the sacrifice-of-Isaac story as God’s refutation of the (at the time – and now, as was captured in your reflection) accepted and common human-sacrifice practice. God revealed to Abraham that such sacrifice was NOT for, of, nor required by God.

  2. Pat Fox
    Pat Fox says:

    As a Vincentian, the most important thing we do to help our neighbors is listen. We have found that we have to advertise ourselves in our bulletin, and with our neighbors to reach the folks who need us most who are often invisible. They aren’t living in the projects. They are the elderly and sick, living in nice neighborhoods on fixed incomes, with absent adult children, single parents struggling to make ends meet, etc. We even get confidential referrals from guidance counselors. Those who need us are out there. We just have to find them and help them as best we can. It’s the work I was meant to do.

  3. Rev. Juanita
    Rev. Juanita says:

    Women who are silenced by the church to answer their call to priesthood. Our homeless who are evicted from their apartments because of the high cost of rent. Their voices need to be heard.

  4. Margaret Bitz
    Margaret Bitz says:

    God said to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on him.” All over the world the people on the margins have the hand of the powerful laid upon them. We are too caught up in ourselves to hear God speak to us :not to lay our hands on the lowly. It seems that even the leaders of our Catholic Church in the U.S. lay their hands on the LBGTQ not to sacrifice someone to dear to themselves, but someone whom they judge. I too am laying my hand on someone any time to sacrifice them to my perceived sense of goodness /righteousness. How do I take my hand off Trump whom I would like to squash into the ground?

  5. sonja
    sonja says:

    To side with the victims means to listen and support them to heal, while at the same time documenting evidence to eventually advocate for justice to be done.

  6. Roberta Ann Fitzpatrick
    Roberta Ann Fitzpatrick says:

    The survivors of murder victims are mostly ignored by the public “justice” system and by the Church. While there are widespread compassionate expressions for the perpetrators, and concerns that they are treated with “fairness” and given chances to improve their lives’ paths, there is essentially ZERO
    concern for the victims to help them restore their lives to a place of peace and stability. Their lives have been shredded, but the only response from society is “forgive,” and get over it. It’s beyond time to develop meaningful attitudes and ministries towards the victims.

  7. Betty MacDonald
    Betty MacDonald says:

    At Mass this morning Father Ibeh spoke about how Abraham did NOT fail the test. The test was how strong his faith was. God never intended that Abraham kill his son, only to see would Abraham obey God and show that his faith was still rock strong like it was when God asked him to leave everything behind and go to a new country. How do we show our faith at times of great tests? The loss of a loved one, sickness, or any other great tragedy that enters our life. Do we turn our back on God no longer believing that He has a divine plan for us. When God speaks do we even listen or do we drown Him out by the sounds and demands of this world – like “you don’t have to go to Mass every week”. You don’t have to share your good with the poor, don’t be a sucker etc etc. God wants us to go to Church not for His sake but for our own. God does want us to share with the poor, to honour and protech human life at all it’s stages. We may never be tested like Abraham but we are all tested each day when we hear conflicting voices – the worlds and God’s. Who’s voice will we listen to?

  8. Keiko
    Keiko says:

    Thank God and thank you, Fr Justin, for this reflection. I find much of the Old Testament troubling. The God I know and love is gracious and loving and expansive, desiring our faith but not testing it, too busy loving to be punishing. Not favoring one person over another. I am pained by the Red Sea story as well, my heart cries for the drowning horses and conscripted chariot drivers. We are called to reject tribal ideas in readings and grow in hope and love. Lord have Mercy!


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