Although we are already in the season of Lent which is a time of penance and abstinence, it cannot be denied that this is also the festive season, and one of the delicacies that will appear on the table is “bak kwa”.
These bak kwa smell as good as they taste, and going at $50 a kilogram, and having to queue up for 6 hours or more just to get it, it is almost as precious as gold.
Bak kwa is usually made from pork, although it is difficult to say which part of the pig it comes from. But it doesn’t matter, as long as it is delicious, we won’t bother.
And we also won’t bother how the pig feels about it. They can’t put up a fight anyway. (But if pigs can put up a fight, they will learn karate, so that they can give a pork chop).
But pigs can’t really put up a fight, and so they end up as ham and bacon and bak kwa.
Pigs can’t fight but they surely can feel. When a piglet is taken away from its mother, there will be tears in the mother’s eyes and she will make a moaning sound, because she knows how the piglet will end up. Yes, pigs and other animals have feelings too, if we pay attention to their reactions.
If animals have feelings, then more so do human beings, and there is a vast vocabulary to express these human feelings and emotions.
But in the first reading, we don’t seem to hear about how Abraham felt when God told him, “Take your son, your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.”
The next thing we heard is that they arrived at the place, and Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
Abraham was a man of faith, but he certainly had feelings too. It was he who bargained with God as he tried to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And now he has to sacrifice his own son! How did he feel about it? But his obedience was prompt.
We would have guessed that he would be shocked and confused and angry. He would probably asked himself, “How come?” and “How can?” And along the way to the mountain, he would probably be tempted to turn back and delete God from his life totally.
And even as we listen, we will wonder why God made such a demanding sacrifice. More than a demanding sacrifice, it was a human sacrifice.
Feelings and emotions aside, Abraham knew it was God who called him to faith. It was in faith and with faith, that he obeyed. But as Abraham seized the knife to kill his son, he was stopped by an angel.
So, in stopping Abraham from killing his son, God in effect, was putting a stop to human sacrifice. And in effect, God is declaring that the only sacrifice He wants is that of obedience.
But for us, obedience to the will of God is often subjected to our feelings and we question whether it is worth it or not.
But when obedience to God contradicts what we think is good for us, then we have to ask if we truly love God. Abraham loved his son. But what about his love for God then?
A story goes that a king assembled his ministers and handed the chief minister a glowing pearl and asked him how much it was worth. The minister replied that it was worth more gold then a hundred caravans could carry.
Then the king asked the minister to take a hammer and smashed it. The minister replied that he wouldn’t dare do such a thing.
One by one, the king asked the ministers how valuable the pearl was and each would raise the value higher than the other. But when ordered to smash it, none of them would do it.
Then the king’s faithful servant came along and the king asked him how valuable the pearl was and he replied that it was more valuable than he could imagine.
Then the king ordered the servant to smash the pearl. Without hesitation, the servant took the hammer and smashed it into pieces.
The ministers were shocked and screamed at the servant and asked him why he did it. The servant replied, “What the king says is worth more than any pearl. I obey and honour the king, and not some coloured stone.”
With that, the ministers realized their true standing with the king and what the king thinks of their obedience.
Jesus is the Beloved Son of the Father. Yet, he learned obedience through His suffering and He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).
God did not demand for Jesus to shed His blood on the cross in sacrifice. It was the sin of mankind that demanded for His blood.
Yet, in shedding His blood, Jesus saved us once and for all from our sins, so that there should be no more shedding of blood, no more taking of revenge, no more payback, no more eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-tooth.
Jesus was obedient even onto death on the cross, so that we too can obey God.
Obedience to God will always produce benefits that far exceed the consequences of disobedience. But faith and obedience must come first then God can answer our prayers. We are obedient not because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.
A person’s greatness is usually exemplified through simple acts of obedience, like Abraham. Where faith is the root, the obedience is the fruit.
In the Transfiguration, the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.”
Let us listen to Jesus, let us follow His obedience to God, because obedience to God is the pathway to the life that we really want to live.