So you have decided on reverting to the habit of a not doing Lent?! So it is a no wine or no tobacco few weeks that lie ahead? Fine by me if you are content with your plan – but make sure that your strategy is creative. By the way, I often wonder why the good Lord created the tobacco plant

(and found it good!) if it was so bad for us? …… And what about the fact that God provided us with cows’ milk – full cream, nogal!? I suppose if cows naturally produced the low-fat version we would have found a way to dilute that into something less?!

What have we done to our world? Have we forgotten (

as today’s Psalm – 116 or 117 – informs us) that we are supposed to “walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living?” It is in this land that the Lord has “loosened my bonds.” Whatever we do or not do in Lent, it must not make us captives. Rather, it must liberate, set us free on a permanent level.

It must also be a clear reminder that we are not in charge of our world. This is the teaching of OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [GENESIS 22: 1 -2. 9a. 10 – 13. 15 – 18]. It is imperative that we look at, and learn a basic lesson from, Abraham’s basic response which is: “Here am I.” These few words are both a statement of fact AND purpose – and will characterise all of Abraham’s life and discipleship. In our reading these words are repeated twice.

Yes, indeed, the Patriarch will be put to the test but we know that the good God is in charge. Abraham had laid out his strategy – here am I – and he kept to it. As a result the Lord blessed him “because you have obeyed my voice.” The more we are able to develop our willingness to place God in command of our life and living by using the three simple, unconditional, words of here am I, the more we begin to experience his love, care and protection. Sometimes, but not very often, the Lord asks something really hard of us. However, most of the time he seeks obedience in the ordinary, daily, and routine matters of life in the land of the living.

I suggest that we see and reflect on Abraham’s experience with the Lord in the face of being asked to sacrifice Isaac as a ‘type’ of transfiguration. The obedient man, like the disciples in TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 9: 2 – 10], “lifted up his eyes” and saw something very special. As with the disciples he was given a ‘taste’ of the glory of God. He was taken beyond the immediate and given a glimpse of something far greater than himself and even of Isaac. In fact, the reality that must always face us is expressed by Saint Paul in OUR NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ROMANS 8: 31b – 34] …. If God is for us, who is against us? Do I really believe this?

Here we could profitably remember the well-known illustration of the little boy riding his first bicycle. The lad takes his hands off the steering bar, lifts them high in the air, and shouts Look, Ma, no hands’! Is this synonymous with here I am’?

Am I prepared for the Lord to see that I have, in basic obedience, taken my hands off the steering bar? We need to hear the words of today’s Gospel: “this is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Yes, there is no doubt that at times we will be, like Peter, “exceedingly afraid.” So was Abraham!

Nevertheless, whatever our Lenten endeavours, we must strengthen within ourselves the ability to say Look, Ma, no hands’! ….. ‘here I am’?