The faith of Abram

By | February 25, 2010

God makes an incredible promise to Abram, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be … and I give you this land as a possession.” Abram believes God but wonders, “How am I to know that I shall possess it?” The reality was that Abram was old and the land belonged to others. How was God going to do this? Yet, “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as act of righteousness,” and he walked on with God. We too may survey the realities of our lives and the challenges we face and wonder, “How on earth is God going to straighten all of this out?” Yet like Abram, our father in faith, we go forward putting our trust in God.

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

To show Abram that he is serious, God does a very solemn act. He asks Abram to carve up animals and to form a path between them. In ancient times this scene was used by persons who were making oaths to each other. Their oaths would be verbalized and then each would walk the path between the slaughtered animals, the understanding being that if either of them violated the promise then may they be like these animals. In today’s reading, only God, under the appearance of smoke and fire, walks the path. Abram, being a weak human sinner, is in no capacity to make such a promise back to God. He can only watch the humbling love of God for him.

God’s promise of land and vast descendants is bigger than it first appears. God will not only give bloodline descendants but also descendants beyond his blood who would call Abram their “father in faith.” They like Abram will put their trust in God, even though they find his promises difficult to accept. They are those who put their faith in the forgiveness of sins won for them in Christ. God asks them to believe the incredible; that he loves them and is with them. St. Paul will go to great lengths in his letters to challenge saddened hearts, hurt by sin, to believe that God loves them, forgives them and wants them back forever.

God has proven his love by the solemn act of his death on the cross. It takes the faith of Abram at times in life to believe that we are forgiven and loved, especially when dealing with the consequences of sin or the pain of life. Yet until we accept forgiveness, our hearts remain sad and perhaps even fearful of God. The blood of God the Son is enough to forgive any sin. No exceptions. Acceptance of this truth brings joy and peace.

Salvation in Christ comes to us personally through the sacraments of his living body, the church. This is the normal means that God uses. It tangibly begins in baptism, where we are mystically joined to Christ and where receive the Holy Spirit. It continues by our fidelity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, following his lead in truth and love through a life of sacramental nearness to God, especially in confession and Eucharist.

In the second reading Paul challenges those who ignore the gift of the Spirit’s lead and rather persist in living for their stomachs and their shame. He warned that those who do so would end in destruction. Salvation in Christ means conformity to Christ both spiritually and bodily. Diversity in this was not an option.

Questions for Reflection

1. Where in my life is the faith of Abram needed?

2. What forgiven sin am I holding onto that I need to leave with God?

3. Where is my conformity to Christ lacking?

 

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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