Abraham is “our father in faith” we say in the 1st Eucharistic Prayer, and the Letter to the Hebrews read today at Mass says why. Abraham believed when God called him to leave his own land and go to a land he did not know. He believed in God’s call.
He was a nomad who lived in tents, always on the move, on the way to a permanent home. That’s us too. As an old man, he believed when God said he would generate a child. Abraham trusted in God rather than in himself.
The great patriarch was tested, because faith grows through testing. Abraham’s greatest test came when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. For Christians that event prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s only Son. Here’s how the Letter to the Hebrews expresses it:
“By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, ?of whom it was said,?Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.?He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, ?and he received Isaac back as a symbol.”
My favorite reflection on Abraham is Jessica Power’s beautiful poem:
“I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten
unwavering nomad; when God called to him
no tender hand wedged time into his stay.
His faith erupted him into a way
far-off and strange. How many miles are there
from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,
or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?
How could he think his ancient thigh would bear
nations, or how consent that Isaac die,
with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?
I think, alas, how I manipulate
dates and decisions, pull apart the dark
dally with doubts here and with counsel there,
take out old maps and stare.
Was there a call after all, my fears remark.
I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,
are you my father? Come to me in pity.
Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.