Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
The other day I glanced over to a young woman with Down Syndrome who had the very best smile on her face as she danced to the music on her head phones. She had a look of sheer pleasure as she moved in a circular motion. Only a few feet away sat a family member who appeared to be smiling as the young woman continued her flowing movement.
As I continued down the walkway of the hospital’s lobby, I wondered about the history of this young woman and her family. What was her family’s response when they found out that their infant was born with special needs? How did friends and relatives congratulate them?
After a few moments of these thoughts I realized that all of my questions were really about me, not this woman’s family. I wondered if I would feel blessed by God with a special needs child? I wondered how long it might take me to be taken up by beautiful moment and delight shown by this young woman?
On the 8th Sunday of March, the first reading has Abraham responding to God’s request to sacrifice his son. Abraham and Sarah had waited for a long time. Now this beautiful dream was to be sacrificed in obedience to a God he trusted. At the last moment, an angel is sent to stop the killing of Isaac. God is assured of Abraham’s love and sends a ram to sacrifice instead.
The reading in the gospel of Mark, Jesus invites three of His disciples to journey up the mountain with Him. Here they encounter with Jesus two of the great prophets, Moses and Elijah, and the presence of the most high God. Peter wants to create a camp and hang out for a while. However, Jesus tells them not only must they return to the people at the base of the mountain, they must also keep this mystical event a secret!
As I thought about the young woman whom I saw the other day I started thinking about the readings for the 8th of March. In our culture births are anticipated with great excitement and anticipation. It has been my experience that upon the news of a fetus with Down Syndrome that there is a period of initial sadness and re-adjustment. I am sad to say that for some there is even the question whether the pregnancy will be continued.
For Abraham, the challenge of God is quite the opposite. He is asked to let go of his beautiful son as an act of obedience. In the case of parents with a special needs child, God is inviting a different kind of obedience and a broadening of how “perfect and beautiful” will be defined.
The young woman the other day seemed to be in her own God moment, as she turned and moved to the sound coming through her head phones. I could only stay a few moments and watch her pleasure. I had other appointments to make and expectations to complete. Yet like the Peter, I really wanted to just hang out and watch her dance. All of these thoughts rolled together, the story of the young woman and her family, my reticence to leave the lobby as I watched her joy in movement.
I think that is perhaps how God stories from long ago reformat themselves for today’s world. It may not be Abraham building an altar with Issac to sacrifice is son, instead, an unexpected twist or turn to the stories happening in our lives. At the same time, the voice of God and the appearance of the Holy Ones may be seen in the simple movement of a young woman with a huge smile…if we but have eyes to see.