To start with, an invitation to do a simple exercise. We all know the account of how Abraham almost sacrifices his son Isaac. We do a little memory of what we remember and… what is the exercise? As I have already said, it is very simple. Take a sheet of paper and a pencil, and draw in a single vignette the image that this story evokes in you.
I dare to predict that mostly the drawings will show us Abraham with the knife in his hand raised over Isaac. Especially, if children and adolescents do it, the knife will stand out for its size. The knife, sometimes even transformed into a sword, becomes a prominent protagonist.
It is possible that some of us, less movie-goers, remarked on Abraham’s face of pain or Isaac’s smallness and innocence.
Now, let me remember the biblical text:
“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on his son Isaac, took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them left together. Isaac said to his father Abraham: “Father!” He replied: “What’s up, son?” – “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them kept walking together. When they arrived at the place that God had told him, Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood; Then he tied up Isaac, his son, and put him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. Then the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven saying: Abraham, Abraham! “He said:” Here I am. ” you are God-fearing, since you have not denied me your son, your only one. “Abraham raised his eyes, looked and saw a lamb caught in a thicket by the horns. It was Abraham, took the lamb, and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. ”(Gen 22, 6-13)
In a second phase of this exercise we pay more and better attention to the story that we now have before us and we can read and reread. It can even make our comprehension work easier when a clue is revealed to us: it is a matter of stopping paying so much attention, almost exclusively, to the saddest details (the knife, Abraham’s suffering, the danger over Isaac) to focus on the most positive aspects. Then … the miracle takes place and next to our smile the Angel of the Lord appears defending the life of Isaac, God himself appears who is the God of Life and the lamb appears that represents Jesus Christ who occupies our place on the Cross to deliver his life for us.
We found that many times we are left with only the negative aspects of the issues. That negative bias prevents us from seeing the other, more positive aspects. That happens to us as readers and also as authors (of comments, blog entries …). And so a “black tide” is created that invades everything: what if the Pope, my bishop, my parish priest, that priest … what if this is no longer done as before … what if those are very bad … How many times when reading certain hypercritical writings with the Church and the Pope that nickname of John XXII, “Prophets of calamities” comes to mind.
Let’s not just look at the sword, justice or revenge, let’s look at the voice of God, through the angel, which is love and mercy.
We end this exercise by marveling at how our reading and understanding of this story (and many others in the Old Testament) changes when we seek the God of Life, and, therefore, it is worth wondering how is my reading of the Bible ? and how is my look towards the brother?