The doubt and faith of Abraham

As we reflect on the place of family this Sunday, the liturgy offers us the example of four very different yet faithful people in the Gospel of Luke in Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. The other readings provide us with the foundational example of faith in Abram and Sarai – who were called to leave behind their land and kin to go to the place where the Lord would lead them (Genesis 12). Although Abram is faithful to the Lord in leaving behind his land, he is not faithful in leaving behind all of his kin. It seems that one of the motivations that Abram has in taking his nephew Lot is as an insurance policy. He and Sarai are already old and past the point of natural childbearing; if the Lord does not come through, then perhaps Abram thinks that at least a nephew is a near substitute. But when Abram arrives in Canaan, he does not find a land of abundance – he finds a land that is in the middle of a famine and they are unable to stay. So after a series of misadventures and deceptions in Egypt, followed by battles in Canaan, Abram finally begins to respond to the original call of the Lord, and asks Lot to go his own way. It is only then that Melchizedek arrives on the scene (Genesis 14) to bless Abram – which prepares the way for Abram to receive the word of the Lord – our first reading today. Even so, as the Lord prepares to make covenant with Abram – now to be known as Abraham – Abram continues to argue and bargain with the Lord. At which point Abram is invited to go outside and consider and count the number of stars in the sky. Although we imagine this scene to take place at night, in fact we are told a few verses later that the sun then begins to set. So it is in broad daylight that Abram is asked this – which helps to explain the “if you can” part – it is not just that there are so many stars to be counted, but it is also that you cannot see the stars in the daylight. It is a beautiful reminder of our need to renew our own faith in the Lord – especially if we have been like Abraham and not always been totally faithful and completely honest with the Lord. There is still hope for all of us!

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am
Feast of the Holy Family (Year B)

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