Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lumen Fidei: the witness of Father Abraham

I wish that Pope Francis' first encyclical Lumen Fidei had been made public, promulgated as it was on 29 June, the great solemnity of the Apostles Sts. Peter & Paul, prior to me composing my post "Our need to separate how from why," if for no other reason than being able to cite this passage from it:
God’s word, while bringing newness and surprise, is not at all alien to Abraham’s experience. In the voice which speaks to him, the patriarch recognizes a profound call which was always present at the core of his being... For Abraham, faith in God sheds light on the depths of his being, it enables him to acknowledge the wellspring of goodness at the origin of all things and to realize that his life is not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love. The mysterious God who called him is no alien deity, but the God who is the origin and mainstay of all that is (par. 11)
Since I am currently leading on Bible study on the Letter to the Hebrews, it bears noting that, as Christians, we acknowledge Abraham as our father in faith. Because of faith (which can only be faith in the true and living God), not being his genealogical descendants, he is our father.

Abraham is first mentioned in the Letter, which most New Testament scholars believe is really an ancient homily, in the second chapter (2:16), but only in passing. He is not mentioned again until the sixth chapter, where we read:
When God made the promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, "he swore by himself," and said, "I will indeed bless you and multiply" you. And so, after patient waiting, he obtained the promise. Human beings swear by someone greater than themselves; for them an oath serves as a guarantee and puts an end to all argument. So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil..." (6:13-19)
Abraham figures prominently in the seventh chapter of Hebrews, but is not mentioned again until chapter eleven. It is in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the chapter that begins by defining faith (i.e., "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" 11:1), that we read-
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God (11:8-10ff)

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