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Glancing Thoughts
Second Sunday of Lent
Year A
March 8, 2020
Eleonore Stump

The Promises of God

When God told Abraham to leave home, God was asking a lot of him. The world was not a global village then. Travel wasn’t easy; there were no planes, taxis, or hotels. Furthermore, leaving home was a decisive break with all the good of home, because going back for a visit was difficult or just out of the question entirely. So leaving home then was a loss that we can’t imagine well anymore, in our era of video calls and texting.

Still, when God told Abraham to leave, Abraham went.

Maybe Abraham is the father of faith because he was willing to stake his life on a promise.

Why did he go? Presumably because he wanted what God offered him. If Abraham left, God told him, then Abraham would become a great nation, and all the communities of the earth would find blessing in him. That is a fairly stunning reward.

So Abraham, who had a great desire for that reward, obeyed God, left what was familiar and beloved to him, and wandered off as a stranger in a strange land.

And then notice what happened.

Abraham lived a very long time after this promise of God’s and he stayed faithful to God’s commands his whole life. But by the time Abraham died, this is all Abraham had: one son to carry on his posterity under this promise and two grandchildren. By anybody’s estimation, this is a very small family. Certainly, one son and two grandsons is not a great nation.

Furthermore, hardly any communities knew Abraham at all, let alone found a blessing in him. The idea that all the communities of the earth would find blessing in Abraham really would have been completely laughable at that time, wouldn’t it?

Of course, as we now see it, all Jews, Christians, and Muslims are the Abrahamic peoples. Many great nations are included among the Abrahamic peoples. All of them know Abraham and think that they find blessing in Abraham.

And so God’s stunning promise to Abraham has been completely fulfilled.

But Abraham did not live to see it. He had to take the fulfillment of God’s promise to him on faith.

So maybe Abraham is the father of faith because he was willing to stake his life on a promise whose fulfillment did not come in his lifetime on earth.

In this, he is not only the patriarch of the family of faith but also a pattern to follow for all those in his family.

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go