The first reading today opens by telling us that God put Abraham to the test. On one level the test looks cruel, asking a man to prove his fidelity by sacrificing his son. We Christians in fact know that the story right down to the detail of the son carrying the wood on which he is to be sacrificed is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that God himself will make. While Issac will be spared, God will not spare his own son.
There is also a much deeper lesson about the true meaning of love in this story. We often make the mistake of thinking that if you love your children you will try and make their lives as pain free as possible. The term helicopter parent was coined to describe those parents who hover over their children. More recently a new breed of parent has appeared, referred to as snow plow parents. These are the parents who are not content to hover but believe it is their job to clear the obstacles from the paths of their children. What they fail to realize is the damage they are doing.
In today's first reading God does not put Abraham to the test so that God can find out what Abraham is made of. God knows all. He does it so that Abraham can find out what he is made of. Through testing Abraham is forced to reach down inside and find the strength that comes from God.
As a child in clunky metal braces I loved to go outside and play like other kids. What I found out later in life was that my mother would be inside looking out the window and when I would fall particularly from any height my mother would stand in the kitchen and clutch the sink to keep herself from running outside to pick me up. She knew I had to learn how to get myself up off the ground in the braces. I had to learn that I was capable of picking myself up. Of course she wanted to run outside, grab me up, and take me inside where I would be safe. But she knew that that would have sent the wrong message. It would have told me that I was helpless, and incapable of doing.
God allows each of us to be tested, because it is only through being tested, overcoming obstacles and adversity in life that we learn how to tap into that strength that comes from the Holy Spirit. God loves us enough to let us fall down, to let us struggle, and even sometimes fail, because it is in these circumstances that we find our truest self.