Genesis 22: 1-18
1 After these things, God tempted Abraham, and said to him: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am.
2 He said to him: Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision: and there thou shalt offer him for an holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will shew thee.
3 So Abraham rising up in the night, saddled his ass: and took with him two young men, and Isaac his son: and when he had cut wood for the holocaust he went his way to the place which God had commanded him.
4 And on the third day, lifting up his eyes, he saw the place afar off.
5 And he said to his young men: Stay you here with the ass: I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you.
6 And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together,
7 Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?
8 And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.
9 And they came to the place which God had shewn him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it: and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood.
10 And he put forth his hand and took the sword, to sacrifice his son.
11 And behold an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am.
12 And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake.
13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram amongst the briers sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son.
14 And he called the name of that place, The Lord seeth. Whereupon even to this day it is said: In the mountain the Lord will see.
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying:
16 By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake:
17 I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies.
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. - from the Douay-Rheims Bible, 1899 American Edition
Everything in the Holy Bible points to Jesus Christ.
All of the figures and images of the Old Testament prepare the world and the People of God for the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Everything and everyone in the New Testament is there because Jesus Christ came and established the Kingdom of God, the earthly manifestation of which is the Church. This is what we believe Christianity is about - the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets is Jesus Christ and the foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ.
In historical terms, you can't have the Church without Jesus and you can't have Jesus without Judaism. Of course, Jesus, as Son of God, existed before any earthly peoples, individuals or nations. The Fathers of the Church have found many references in the Old Testament in which they see Christ. In today's passage from Genesis (22:1-18) we hear the story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac. I cannot tell you why God would test Abraham, why He would ask him to sacrifice the child of his old age.
I can tell you that Abraham was prepared to accept God at His word and to do as he was asked. Likewise, I cannot tell you why God would send His Son to suffer a terrible death for the the life of the world. I can tell you that Jesus was prepared to do His Father's will and He did accept death, death on a cross. We call Abraham the Father of Faith because his faith was tested and he obeyed. Isaac the son who was almost a whole-burnt offering and who came back alive is a pre-figure of Christ, a "type" of Christ, Who was offered in sacrifice and yet came back to life.
This Fifth Friday prepares us to understands as best we can the Friday of Great and Holy Week. Two weeks from now we will commemorate the saddest day in history, the day on which Christ died, which we call Good Friday. You must read this story of Abraham, especially if you do not hear it at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy today. All of the sacrifices of the Old Testament, hundreds or thousands per day, all the rams, lambs, heifers, turtle doves, bread, wine, or oil, could not ever accomplish what the death of Jesus Christ accomplished.
Likewise, all that we do by fasting, praying, giving alms, confessing, or prostrating, cannot accomplish what has already been accomplished for us in Jesus Christ.
We can participate in the salvation which is given to us by living our liturgical life just as the Jews participated by offering the sacrifices and prayers of their liturgy.
We participate in a miraculous manner when we receive Holy Communion because the crucified and resurrected Christ is given to us. It is as if everything happens at once because Jesus Christ binds all things together - all of the sacrifices of the past and all of the Eucharists until now and those to come.
We cannot be hesitant to believe and to say what Jesus says of Himself in this coming Sunday's Gospel: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)