Second Sunday of Lent: A Covenant of Faith
This Sunday's first reading is the covenant is the one that God made with Abraham. Abraham manifested a living faith in God, a quality of faith that the world had never seen before. He left his homeland of Ur and went to the land of Canaan out of faith in God. Though his wife Sarah and he were too old to have children, he believed God's promise that he would be the Father of many nations. He was ecstatic when Isaac was born, the son through whom Abraham would live on as the Father of many nations; yet he still trusted in God to be true to his promise even when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. When God saw the extent of Abraham's faith, his confidence that God would fulfill his promises, even though this meant killing his son, God stopped Abraham and then covenanted that not only would Abraham be the father of many nations but also that his descendants would be as countless as the stars of the sky or the sands of the seashore. God's return to Abraham for his faith was the promise that Abraham's memory, his faith, his very life would continue in countless numbers of people throughout the ages. And indeed, Abraham is recognized as the Father of the Faith not just by Catholics, but by all Christians, by the Jewish people and by the Moslem people.
The covenant God made with Abraham he makes with us if we, like Abraham, do everything we can to cultivate a living faith. When you and I take a step of totally trusting in God to take care of us, though we have no idea how he could possibly do this under some present difficulty, then God responds both by caring for us and by giving life to our faith so that the world will witness our faith for more generations than we could ever imagine.
Let's concretize this with a modern day recreation of the Abraham story. A young couple gets pregnant. They should be excited, but the timing is bad. They are both in college and had not planned on starting a family for another two or three years. They don't know how they are going to be able to continue their plans. Still, they are people who have a living faith in God. They know that somehow or other God will provide for the family and they believe that God evidently had something different in mind for them than they had for themselves. Their baby is a child not just of their love but also of their faith. Brought into the world as a child of faith and raised as a child whose life reflects his parents' faith, the child becomes a person through whom many people find faith. The people of faith who are descended from the young couple's trust in God are without number. I believe that every member of our parish could tell her or his own stories of how a living faith resulted in an adoption, taking in an elderly parent, declining a job, working on a marriage in the midst of trauma, etc. I'm sure you could relate how blindly trusting in God resulted in a strengthening of your lives and families. You can all tell your own stories of Abraham and the covenant of faith.
Yet, faith is so very hard for us. We live in a society dominated by the computer with its quick answers and volumes of statistics. We find it hard to fathom when a doctor tells us that he or she really doesn't know what the problem is. We are sure there are answers to everything somewhere or other. But the faith that God is calling us to today is one where we have to trust in him without knowing how God is going to care for us. The great philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, spoke of Abraham as taking the blind leap of faith that resulted in his entering into a new life in the hands of God.
Today we are called to take that leap of faith in God's hands. It is fundamental to our lives as the People of God that we place every decision in God's hands and trust him to work his wonders, even if we don't have the slightest idea of how God will take care of us. Our lives must be determined by our trust in God, not by our pocketbooks or by the agenda we have planned for ourselves.
As people of faith we have to trust in God to take care of us. And as human beings, we have to join the man in the Gospel of Luke whose son had leprosy and whom the disciples could not cure. "I do believe," said the man to Jesus, "but help my unbelief."
Today and everyday, God sees us here as people of faith, people, human beings, who are begging God to help them grow in faith.
May our faith be far more than a statement of our creed. May our faith be our living participation in the covenant of Abraham and God. For if we strive for the living faith that our Father in Faith Abraham actualized, God will care for us beyond our fondest expectations.