Isaac And Jesus: Moriah And Jerusalem

Last Sunday the first reading at mass was the story of Abraham and Isaac, of the father’s being asked by God sacrifice his son, but stopping him at the last moment, satisfied that Abraham had been willing to do as God requested.

I warned the people it was a story of torture and was ugly. Torturers know they will not actually kill but they enjoy the fear and terror of the victims who do not know that. At the last moment the torturer stops the cruel game to enjoy planning future torture. The fear is frightening, the mentality of the torturer is inhuman.

That is how God was willing to be portrayed – a god of fear, of absolute demand, and the command is the cruellest: kill your child? All good parents would be willing to die to save their children. What is the teaching this story is giving?

The ancient world accepted human sacrifice as part of the worship of its gods. Human life is the most precious “commodity” in creation, and one’s child would be the most precious of those human commodities. So parents would sacrifice their first-born child to win favour from the gods (the Molochs), pour the blood over the fields so that they would produce rich crops, smear the blood on their boats, tools, that trade would bring profit.

God seems to play the game “Give me your son, your only son”, imitating what the Molocks asked of their believers and worshipers. God, no more than a tribal god?

Abraham blindly accepts. This god has already asked him to sacrifice his past by leaving his relatives to go to a land he did not know, and now asks him to sacrifice his future by killing his son.

“Sacrifice” means “to make holy” (“sacrum” “facere” are the Latin words that give us “sacrifice”). Abraham will do something holy by killing his son! This is evil thinking. God is cruel and Abraham is bewildered, caught in the old ways of judging “child or prosperity”.

Abraham makes a ritual of the sacrifice. He knows the place where he will offer his son: the land of Moriah, the hill in the land of Moriah. It is a three days walk. Why walk three days to find the right place to kill your son? It’s a biblical story – on the third day the story will end wonderfully.

The Bible tells us they walked two days and that on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place for the sacrifice – the hill of Moriah. He ties the wood for the fire (a burnt sacrifice of his son!) on the boys back, and Isaac carries the wood on which he will die, willingly, because he does not yet know he is the sacrifice. Trusting boy, broken father, cruel god – the scene is immense.

Come forward about 1,700 years. The hill of Moriah has become the city of Jerusalem (the books of Samuel and Chronicles tell us this), and Calvary is part of the hill. Jesus carries the cross on his way to death, just as Isaac had carried the wood for the fire of his death. Jesus and Isaac, innocent and trusting; Abraham and the Father in agony, and God seems to do nothing. He has decreed for Abraham and Isaac, has he decreed for himself and Jesus?

Jesus died on the hill of Moriah, the cross holding him, was buried nearby and raised from death on the third day. Isaac rose from the wood holding him, his place of death, on the third day, coming back to life and reconciled to his father. “My father, why did you forsake me?” “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

New life, but the suffering remembered. “See my wounds, Thomas” “Hear my terrifying story, Rebecca.” The third day right through the Bible is God’s day of supreme blessing – more than thirty times it occurs. The stories have wonderful endings after terrible suffering. God’s word is fulfilled: Abram (“son of a good father”) has become Abraham (“father of a great nation”); Jesus of Nazareth has become the Christ of the kingdom of God.

We glimpse parable-in-action, a term used for certain actions of the prophets – Jeremiah, Ezikiel, Hosea – preaching by something they did rather than said. Abraham’s terrible ordeal teaches at the beginning of the story of the people of God that there will be no human sacrifice and the very pain he endured is the force of the teaching; Jesus’ terrible death teaches the love “I did it for you.”

God bless us to understand . . . .

Fr John

(7th March 2021)

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I Said A Prayer For You Today

Small Red-coloured Cross

I said a prayer for you today
and know God must have heard.
I felt the answer in my heart,
although He spoke no word!

I didn’t ask for wealth or fame,
I knew you wouldn’t mind.
I asked him to send treasures,
of a far more lasting kind!

I asked that He be near you,
at the start of each new day;
to grant you health and blessings
and friends to share your way!

I asked for happiness for you,
in all things great and small.
But it was for His loving care,
I prayed the most of all!

Traditional Opening Prayer

Leader: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Response: Amen

L: O Lord, open my lips.
R: And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

L: O God come to my assistance.
R: O Lord, make haste to help me.

L: Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
R: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen

God’s Love For Us

Quote: Love People

Can you imagine yourself rejoicing that someone is in hell? A living hell now or an eternal hell after death, as some religions and churches teach. Where is God if you rejoice like that? You must be sick and sickening if the thought of people in hell pleases, even delights, you.

No, you say calmly, this is the justice of God.

They are suffering because they deserve to. They missed mass on Sunday and committed a mortal sin so they deserve hell. I was taught like that at school and I know how deeply those teachers must now regret having taught the Catholic Faith in that way. Poor, pathetic, loathsome teaching – teachers, priests, grandparents, parents – who believed love of God should be taught through frightening fear (*).

Sinners have offended God, you say, still calm, and thus they must suffer the consequences. We should rejoice at the justice of God that punishes in hell fire.

Hell for eternity? There is no justice in that. Even if you chose to destroy the inhabited world by exploding all the nuclear bombs we have (people are poor, hungry, homeless, suffer, and we have enough nuclear bombs, including Trident, to destroy the world – what madness!) would that be enough to justify your being condemned for all eternity? That makes the punishment greater than the crime. Would God punish more than the sin deserved? Of course not. There can be no eternal punishment for any temporal wrong. There would be no justice there.

Cec Denahy was a New Zealand priest famous for his parish missions and hell-fire sermons. Suddenly he changed. I preached a retreat at his monastery and was able to have a long conversation with him. Why had he changed so completely? “There is only one message, John,” he said, “God’s love. I regret all those hell-fire and damnation sermons now. I want only to preach God’s love, God’s understanding and forgiving love.”

God’s love is the message. Ignore the ignorant preachers who trade on fear and sin and damnation and the people who like to be excited at the pretend fear and an emotional high. God is love. That’s the Gospel. Hell is people’s imagination.

God bless us,

Fr John

(24th March 2019)

* Our Italian brethren and professors in Rome were amazed at the
teaching we received in British and Irish schools on missing mass –
mortal sin – danger of hell. “We’d be sending most of Italy to hell
every week” they said!

Related Links: Popular Reads and Fr John’s Parish Newsletters

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Father, Son & Holy Spirit

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God’s Sacrifice

Yellowstone National Park
Small yellow-grey Cross

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally fossilised in ashes, perched statue-like on the ground, at the base of a tree.

Hen with her chicks.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked the bird over with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had led her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the flames and toxic smoke would kill.

She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother remained steadfast.


How often have we been the receivers of similar selfless protection?

Our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, … numerous people around us are filled with goodness. They frequently, willingly and quietly help us, because they love us. Often we don’t notice how committed they are or take their everyday help for granted. Instead, we expect it!

Of course, Jesus loved us so much that he stretched out his arms and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)


Gracious and Holy Father, give us the wisdom to discover You, the intelligence to understand You, the diligence to seek after You, the patience to wait for You, eyes to behold You, a heart to meditate upon You, and a life to proclaim You, through the power of the Spirit of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

… God, Our Creator …


Small red coloured Cross

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people;
and has raised up a mighty salvation for us,
in the house of his servant David;
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets,
which have been since the world began;
that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hands of all that hate us;
to perform the mercy promised to our forefathers,
and to remember his holy Covenant;
to perform the oath which he swore to our forefather Abraham,
that he would give us;
that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear;
in holiness and righteousness before him,
all the days of our life.
And thou, Child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High,
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
to give knowledge of salvation to his people,
for the remission of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
to give light to them that sit in darkness,
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

… St Zechariah: Pray for Us …

An Afternoon In The Park

Park Bench underneath trees

The little boy wanted to meet God.

He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Twinkies and a six-pack of lemonade and he started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase.

He was about to take a drink from his lemonade when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a lemonade. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

Book Cover: Twinkies

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house, a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” But before her son responded, she added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

Small green Cross surrounded in lilies

God is in the face of everyone we meet, He created each and all.

However, sometimes their smile is trapped beneath a hard exterior and needs a little help from other joyful people to escape! See if you can help someone release their happy side today! If not, say a little prayer for them and smile yourself.