Scripture holds up Abraham as our “father in faith.” That’s no small title! And we might wonder whether Abraham’s example can still speak to us today. Popular culture has a thousand and one ways of trying to convince us that faith makes us less human, less free, even less intelligent!
People of faith are often treated with disdain, suspicion, even hostility. Perhaps you’ve had a conversation with a family member, a friend or a co-worker when deep misperceptions about faith arise. Against this backdrop, the invitation to reflect on the faith of Abraham is relevant, now more than ever.
In this Sunday’s second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews spells out many reasons why Abraham’s faith was genuine and life-transforming.
The word of God gives us a portrait of a man whose faith stretched him closer and closer to God as he discovered the peace and joy that comes from walking in genuine friendship with God. Abraham responded to, rather than avoided, the deepest longings of his heart for union with God. And his example invites us to do the same.
So what was Abraham’s faith like?
God called Abraham to set out on an unknown journey to a place he did not know. At first glance this seems foolish. So why did Abraham listen and obey? Because Abraham knew God as a person, as a friend, and not an abstract being removed from his daily life.
And so he listened to God’s word, as a friend listens to another, with an open heart and mind. He knew that the divine friend calling to him was trustworthy. Do we hear God’s word as the voice of a divine person, a friend who loves us with an unimaginable depth of love and mercy?
God gave Abraham power to generate new life, even though he and Sarah were beyond childbearing years. Again, Abraham trusted in God’s promise because he knew God as a trusted friend whose word he could count on, despite all the natural and physical evidence to the contrary.
This kind of faith stretched Abraham beyond the natural limited world into the supernatural, miraculous power of God’s creative hand. Do we trust that God can work miracles in our lives, going beyond what is humanly and naturally possible?
Finally, God put Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Again, Abraham, in spite of his natural misgivings, trusts in God as a loving friend. As the author of Hebrews notes, “He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.”
God was in control of Abraham’s life, not Abraham! This realization became the fundamental orientation of Abraham’s life and his response to God in faith. For the faith of Abraham in our lives, we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”