Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday word, 22 Oct 2007

29th Monday (22 Oct 2007) Rm 4. 20-25; Resp. Luke 1. 69ff; Lk 12. 13-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Model of Faithful Obedience

I continue my series of reflections on the Letter to the Romans in order to make more accessible for you its treasure of faithful obedience./1/ This relationship with God allows us to give God glory as God and give [God] thanks,/2/ which those who refuse to recognize God do not do. Such a one is an idolater, to use Paul’s language.

Using an imaginary conversation partner to move his proclamation forward, St. Paul offers the prime opposite, our ancestor in faithful obedience, Abraham. He did not refuse to enter into a relationship with God: Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do. This sentence overflows with action-implications for us: namely, trust; hope; and believe.

St. Paul had noted that Genesis remarked that before Abraham was circumcised he was declared righteous because of his faithful attentiveness to God not because of any of his accomplishments--in Paul’s language, his works.

In St. Paul’s day Judaism extolled Abraham because of his works. Implied in accomplishments are claims they allow us to make. St. Paul corrected the view his contemporaries had of Abraham by reminding people that nothing anyone does obliges God or puts a claim on God. Though not obliges, God promised Abraham life.

Abraham’s faith is the model for us because he was fully convinced God would fulfill God’s promise. Abraham trusted the promise contrary to experience: his age, as good as dead, and Sarah’s dead womb/3/ Abraham’s faith empowered him to trust and to hope. The promise of life out of death--the birth of Isaac to barren Sarah--shaped Abraham’s faith. It pointed to Christian faith, which is shaped by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and trust in it.

Appearances confound us, too, and often. For us, who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, faith is also a relationship of trust, hope and attentiveness. Abraham models how to live by faith as the relationship God desires us to cultivate. Trust and hope feed and empower our faith, too.

/1/ Paul’s phrase functions as bookends of his letter: to bring about the obedience of faith (1.5 and 16.26) was his
apostolic purpose.
/2/ Chapter 1. 21.
/3/ Chapter 4. 19, the verse preceding today’s reading.
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