Life & Soul

Word This Week

Abraham and the Angels by Aert de Gelder (c 1680–85)

The Old Testament Scriptures describe salvation as an Exodus, a journey from the slavery of Egypt to freedom and fulfilment in a Promised Land. As such, it is our own story, embracing the striving of every generation. We struggle to break free from the sin that disfigures and restrains. We long for the freedom of a Promised Land, a land that nourishes the likeness of God in every creature.

This is the vision of salvation set before us in the Old Testament, and we respond with a faith that sees in Christ both the proclamation and fulfilment of this promise. We are on a journey, from the reality of a world frustrated and bound by sin, to the promised freedom of a life lived in Christ.

The readings for this Sunday are a reflection on this journey of faith. The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, reaches back over many centuries to remember afresh the night of Israel’s deliverance.

It was a night spent in prayer, and Wisdom emphasises that it was precisely at the point of Israel’s greatest vulnerability, when oppression weighed most heavily on her people, that God delivered his people. They had remained faithful throughout the darkest night. We too shall come to know the darkness of our sin and the imprisonment of frustrated hope.

The Letter to the Hebrews sets our lives between the poles of what has been promised in Christ and the awaited fulfilment of those promises. We are like Abraham who invested everything in the promises God made to him. He left everything behind to follow these promises, and yet a childless marriage and the barrenness of nomadic wandering seemed to mock their fulfilment. Faith alone enabled Abraham to walk with his God, even in those moments furthest removed from the comfort that he craved.

Jesus prepared his disciples for their journey with a call to commitment and watchfulness. “Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”

Faith demands a real choice. If we truly commit ourselves to a life lived with the Lord, we must abandon everything that hinders his presence. This alone is the purse that never wears out. Faith demands a watchfulness that constantly expects to find his presence in every moment. “Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. He will sit them down at table and wait on them.”

This article first appeared in the August 5 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here