Abraham's trust redemptive

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  • December 19, 2008
Holy Family (Year B) Dec. 28 (Genesis 15:1-6; 17:3-5, 15-16; 21:1-7; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40)

The future must have looked rather bleak for Abraham. He had left his homeland and all that was familiar to him because God asked him to. God promised in return that Abraham would have a land in which to dwell and he would be the father of a great nation. In a time in which descendents were the only way one achieved any sort of immortality, he had been promised a child to carry on his name.

But as we say today, the biological clock was ticking. Both Abraham and Sarah were well past the time for children. In their anxiety they had tried various ways of forcing the issue. Abraham fathered children through one of Sarah’s servants. But God was adamant: this is not what He had in mind and the promise would be fulfilled in the expected manner. Sarah would conceive and bear a son and the fact that she was well past child-bearing age would be an irrefutable sign that this was the hand of God.

It is not that Abraham believed in God — that was not an issue — but that he believed God’s promise even without much in the way of external evidence. This absolute trust and the willingness to live on the basis of that trust were as good as righteousness in God’s eyes. Abraham and Sarah’s great faith — trust in God — had tremendous generative power. It set in motion the great chain of people and events in God’s plan for the redemption of humanity. Our response or lack of response to God is no insignificant or private matter. Our own faith/trust in God has consequences not only for many other people around us but for generations yet unborn.

Gregory of Nyssa stated in his Life of Moses that Moses must have been guided by God because he did not know where he was going. This experience was certainly shared by Abraham and Sarah for God gave them no itinerary, schedule or plan when He asked them to leave their homeland. They had to follow God’s guiding light each day content in the belief that light would also be given the next day. This is a model of faithful living for us because walking and living in faith is a struggle for most people. It is easy to trust when all goes well but failures, struggles and heartbreak can corrode and dissolve faith very quickly. It is in those difficult times that we must remember God’s promises to us: God will be with us always and will never let us down.

Everyone in Luke’s story, Simeon, Anna, even Mary and Joseph, must have been filled with wonder and some perplexity. Who is this child? What will become of Him? What changes will He bring? They knew that He represented the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel and that He would bring great changes to society and to the world. But exactly the manner in which that would be accomplished would only be revealed throughout the lifetime of Jesus. There is an awareness, however, He will be a shock and a surprise to many.

The loving and nurturing environment as well as the strength and encouragement provided by Mary and Joseph were crucial for the person and mission of Jesus. Everyone was once infants held in the arms of their parents who probably had great hopes for them. Unfortunately, these hopes are often disappointed. So much depends on the way in which the child is treated and the role models and examples provided. We all have an opportunity to do good things for God and humanity but so much depends on those critical first years. A family is far more than a living arrangement and involves far more than feeding and clothing children. It is an attitude and a state of mind — an ability to create a loving and supportive environment where children, and others, feel loved, valued, safe and encouraged to grow. True family can be created anywhere and does not require blood relationship, for the family is a model and microcosm of the humanity.

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