My mother-in-law is an Italian American. Her grandfather did what most of our ancestors did. He gave up everything he had, left behind most of his family in Italy, and risked his life for the promise of a better one here in America. When he arrived, as a young man in his early 20s, he lived in a tenement in New York City, and worked in a factory. The tenements lacked adequate sunlight, had poor ventilation, and housed so many people in the two room apartments that there weren’t adequate sleeping arrangements. In general, everyone was better off spending as much time as possible outside as opposed to being in.
Life was hard but he was making it work until one day as he tried to jump on a trolley he fell and his leg was run over. He lost his leg which severely limited what he would be able to do. Life looked bleak for this poor immigrant. His landlady nursed him back to health, let him stay rent free and provided food for him during his recovery. She encouraged him after a year of recovery to seek an early form of a prosthetic leg and to get back to work. And that is exactly what he did. He got help from his community to replace his leg and then he learned to run a crane and set to work again and made something of himself. He eventually married and left the tenements. His story may not be too different than the stories of your own relatives and how they came to America and how they worked hard and struggled to make a life for themselves and their families.
His story was one of trust though. He trusted in God and the promise of a future here in this land, enough that he left everything. Then he trusted in the kindness of his landlady to care for him for a year. He trusted in his community to help him back on his feet. And all through this, he clung to his faith in God and the Catholic Church. And he saw the blessings of the Lord come to life in more ways that just a life here in the United States. He saw God at work in the care of the people around him. Life was hard and is hard for many people today, yet we are still called to trust that God is there working to bring us through our hardships and into better times. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase”. We are called to trust that we are being lead in the right direction, even when we are scared and don’t have a clear understanding of what the future holds.
In our scriptures, we see the trust of Abraham in God with the attempted sacrificing of his son Isaac, the only child of Sarah. We see how when God calls him, he doesn’t argue but rather proceeds probably dreadingly to the site of the sacrifice. He moved forward not fully aware of what the future was going to hold but trusting in the plan of God in his journey. In the process, Isaac learns an important lesson as well. He learns of the love of God for him and his family. He learns about the protection and courage that the Lord offers to those who believe. He learns that though he might not be able to see the will of the Lord, that if you trust in him and proceed on his path, God will remain faithful.
We see that God was stopping the hand of Abraham from destroying that which was most precious to him: Isaac. In this one story, we see how God was with Abraham in the past, how he was with Abraham and Isaac in the present, and how God would guide and take special interest in Isaac in the future. No matter what that future would hold.
We all need to be reminded periodically in life that we are not alone, that God has not abandoned us to the pain and struggles of this life. But rather God gives us what we need to help us through those struggles. Abraham was given a ram to prevent the killing of Isaac. My husband’s great grandfather was fortunate to have the kindness and care of a community of strangers and a landlady that helped him back on his feet. And God will continue to be that source of strength even when we doubt it. God is our source of hope. And I would venture to say that this was the same hope that helped to establish the colonies in the Americas and then the hope that brought a ragtag group of revolutionaries into rebellion against the crown and into nationhood. This hope was alive and well in the past; it is here in the present; and just like the Psalmist from this morning we can be sure that it will be here in the future.
Our challenge is to have faith, no matter how difficult it may be, in the God that is ever present and ever working in the lives of humanity. We should remember to give thanks to God even in our times of struggle for the ways that he has reminded us of his presence either through the kindness of others, through the work of professionals, or through the strength of our relationships in life. Remember the strength of the Psalmist and the hope he had when he said, “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me”. The Psalmist didn’t know how God would answer his appeal for deliverance. But he trusted that God would. Let us trust in the Lord for he will answer our appeals as well.
 Martin Luther King Jr, 20th Century pastor, civil rights leader, and theologian.
 Psalm 13: 5-6, NRSV.
(Based on Genesis 22: 1-14 and Psalm 13)