Tag Archives: Abraham

Immigration, Now and Then

Immigration is a hot political topic today. It’s not just an issue here in America; it’s a world issue. Millions of people all over the world are on the move today because of wars, violence and because they can’t make a living on lands affected by climate change.

Our first reading today at Mass is about Abraham, the “wandering Aramean” whom God blessed as he went from place to place. May God bless those wandering from place to place today.

Today also is St. Patrick’s day. This was a big day in the place where I was born and raised, Bayonne, NJ, a city of immigrants, many from Ireland. The Irish went to church today to thank God for the faith brought to them by St. Patrick and for being able to live in a country where they could make a living and bring up their families, hoping for a better life.

Years ago, I visited the place where some of my relatives came from in Donegal, in northern Ireland. I saw the little abandoned farm house, with no roof, where some of them lived. An old man in the neighborhood remembered the day they left for America, three young people carrying away their simple belongings. It was all they had. There was no work for them there anymore.

When they came to America they took whatever jobs they could get. It had to be hard for them making their way in a new land and another way of living. But they helped one another, and that’s one of the things I remember about that immigrant generation. They helped one another.

I took a picture of that abandoned house in Donegal and gave it to my relatives. I see it’s still hung proudly in their house when I visit. We have to remember where we come from. We’re children of Abraham, on our way to a place that’s still before us. We have to stick together.

Putting Stormy Times in Place

The scriptures are meant for stormy times, and they put stormy times in their place.

Last Sunday’s gospel was about the storm at sea from Mark’s gospel. Night’s coming, the wind rises, the waves sweep over the boat. Looks like the end, and Jesus is asleep.

I was thinking about the storm created by Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si.” Take a look at Twitter, #popefrancis, and you will see what I mean. What is he getting us into?

Today we began to read at Mass about the call of Abraham from the Book of Genesis. Brother Angelo read it slowly, as he usually does, dwelling on phrases you could miss.

“The LORD said to Abram:
‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.’”

“…a land I will show you,” God says. Not a land you will show me.

“You will be a blessing…all the communities of the earth will find blessings in you.”
Not your land and it’s not about you, but it’s a blessing for all nations.

“Abraham was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.”
Seventy-five? How old is Pope Francis? How old are we?

“Abraham took his wife, Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all the possessions they had and the persons they acquired in Haran.”
Too many people, too complicated to go anywhere with such baggage.

So Abraham built an altar near the Terebinth at Mamre.
The early Christian commentators say the terebinth tree at Mamre is a symbol of the cross.

“Then Abraham journeyed on in stages to the Negeb.”
“Are we there yet?” Not there yet, only “in stages.”

The Glory of God

I was surprised to see Harold Camping at his usual place on television the other night. The rapture didn’t happen May 21st, he explained, because God wanted to alert the world that the end was going to come this October. A caller wondered if we could do anything about helping this world of ours, but Harold was quite firm that God was going to destroy it completely. It’s an open sewer, according to him. Nothing’s worth saving.

How different from the Christian vision of St. Irenaeus, the 3rd century  bishop of Lyons, whose feast we celebrate June 28th. He condemned the gnostics– favorites of new age thinkers today– for their dismissal of creation as evil. The One God is the source of our created world and we know him through it, Irenaeus taught. We cannot know God if we depreciate or ignore the world God has made; it mirrors his glory.

“The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by us, that he may give life to those who see and receive him…  God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown.”

The Word of God has a twofold role, according to Irenaeus, revealing God in creation and finally coming in the flesh to complete this revelation in Jesus Christ.  No  one has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.

He revealed God to us and presented us to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent us from treating God with contempt and to set before us a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to us and made him visible in many ways to prevent us from being totally separated from God and so cease to be.

“Life in us is the glory of God; in human life one can see the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”

Harold should read that wonderful story from the Book of Genesis we read yesterday at Mass about Abraham bargaining with God for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The world’s worth saving.