By faith, Abraham obeyed and went, the Holy Family, 2017

Friends, today is the celebration of the holy family that God has given as an example to his people. Both God and His Church treasure very highly marriage and family life. The mutual love between husband and wife in marriage is an image of the absolute and indestructible love with which God loves humans. The Church teaches that through marriage man and woman establish a community for their entire life (CIC 1050§1). It is from the woman's and man's love that the family is born. This is where children grow and mature. Parents, single mothers or dads have important responsibilities towards their children. It is in the family the children's first experience of God and other people occurs. And this is crucial for the family and the children. It is in the family that we learn and experience goodness, tenderness and cultivate other positive qualities. Like the relationship in the family, our relationship with God grows and deepens. The family has an important role to play in the life of a child. There are many people who play important roles in today's liturgical texts. In my reflection, I will focus on Abraham, Eliezer and Isaac.

Abraham, whom we meet in today's first reading (Gen. 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3) is mentioned the first time in Gen. 11:26 in a family genealogy of Sem's descendants. That was Noah's third son and one of the eight people who were saved from the flood. Following the chronology presented by Moses, Abraham belonged to the tenth generation after Noah. He was born about 300 years after the flood and lived 175 years. His father was called Tera, and he had two brothers, Nahor and Haran. It is told that the family lived first in the Chaldean- Ur probably in today's Iraq, which was then called Mesopotamia. Tera brought Abraham and Haran's son Lot and Abraham's wife Sarah to settle in the land of Canaan. But they stopped halfway, in Haran, located at the upper slope of the Euphrates River, in the border between today's Turkey and Syria. It seems that Abraham left Ur because he did not want to serve the idols that his people worshipped. With this he became the first among his people who said no to idolatry.

By this time, Abraham had no children yet. He was 75 years old, and his wife Sarah 65 years. But he received a promise from God that he will be blessed with a lot of descendants. Years gone by, the promise was yet unfulfilled. Abrahams response to God in today's text reminds us that God was repeating the promise he made in Gen 15. Since many years had gone by without the promise coming to fulfilment, Abraham had reason to doubt, "Lord, Lord, what shall you give me? I'm dying childless, and heir to my house is Elieser from Damascus. "And he even blames God for his childlessness:" Look, you have not given me any offspring. One of my people will inherit me. "But God repeated his promise, and Abraham believed God.

The mention of Eliezer from Damascus brings in Syria, a country that is particularly interesting for those studying the Bible, because it has links with the history of the Bible. Damascus is Syria's capital. It is said to be one of the oldest cities in the world inhabited since it was founded. The city is located at the foot of the Antilibanon mountain range, and the Barada river flows through it. There are 55 verses in the Bible where Damascus is mentioned. For centuries it has been an important oasis on the outskirts of the Great Syrian desert. Probably, the patriarch Abraham passed this city as he was heading south to Canaan. And he took Elieser, "a man from Damascus," to his household as a servant (Genesis 15: 2). Relationship between Israel and Syria was not always great. Syria fought against Israel's first king, Saul (1 Sam 14:47). It is told that Israel's second king David fought the Aram kings (the Hebrew name of Syria) and defeated them (2 Sam 8: 3-8). Syria and Israel became enemies for a long time (1 Kings 11: 23-25).

Over time, peace existed between Israel and Syria. There were even some Jewish synagogues in Damascus in the time of Saul. Saul of Tarsos, named Paul, was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus when he met the risen Lord on the way and converted to Christianity (Acts 9: 1-8). In today's Damascus, there are no traces of Abraham's passage or Saul and David's conquests. Nonetheless, you can find ruins of the old Roman city and a major thoroughfare through the ancient city that follows the ancient Roman street of Via Recta (straight street). It was in a house on this street that Ananias found Saul after his miraculous conversion to Christianity just outside Damascus.

According to the tradition of the time, Eliezer the servant of Abraham would inherit all that belonged to Abram, because Abram was childless. That was what made Abram worried. He wanted a biological child. Therefore, God comforted him and promised him that he would have his own biological heir. He eventually received Isaac. Although Abram had taken Eliezer into his household, he was still worried. Then it was the case that a childless couple could adopt a son (who was either born or slave) so that he could take care of them, bury them and inherit them. This is reminiscent of Abraham's statement regarding his trusted slave Elieser in Genesis 15: 2.  It was Elisier who was responsible for managing Abram's possessions and who would inherit all his possessions.

Abraham left his country Ur because God had made him a promise. It had taken quite a while and it seemed that the promise would not be fulfilled. Abraham took the matter in his own hands when ten years had passed after the emigration from Haran (Gen. 16:16). He was then 85 years old and Sarah 75 years old. Then Sarah raised up, and suggested that Abraham should do as it was customary at that time to take a concubine. And Abraham listened to her words. And then Ishmael was born of his concubine Hagar, who was his Egyptian slave.

Thirteen years after Ishmael's birth, God returns to Abraham (Gen. 17: 1). Now he is 99 years old. This time he changes his name to Abraham - "father to many" -and gives him the covenant of circumcision. And then he repeats his promise again after changing Sarai's name to Sara.

The mind that Abraham had before God repeated the promise with reference to the countless stars, it was the unbelieving mind. He assumed he was dying childless, and he blamed this on God. The promise that God had previously given he does not believe in. Abraham did not believe. But then God's word and promise woke faith in him. Then he believed, and it was counted as righteousness.

I will bless her and give you a son with her too. Then Abraham must laugh. Should a child be born to a hundred years old? And would Sara have children, she's ninety years old? Abraham thinks it's enough that he already has Ishmael. But God emphasizes that Sara is going to give birth to a son to him, and he is to be called Isaac.

Abraham was later commanded to sacrifice the promise son, Isaac (Genesis 22). We know that he was obedient in this also, and prepared to sacrifice him (Hebrews 11:19): Abraham believed that God had the power to awaken from the dead. When it was time to find a wife of Isaac, Elisier was the one whom Abraham sent to Mesopotamia, to find a bride for Isaac. Elieser had promised that he would not choose a Canaanian wife for Isaac. Elieser travelled with some of Abraham's servants.  He meets Rebecca at the water well, which can be a picture of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The very name Elieser means in the same way as the Holy Spirit "consoler". Rebecca is from the same city as Abraham, which was then in Babylon. Babylonia is a picture of this world. When Elieser finds out that the young woman is related to Abraham, he throws himself down before Yahweh and thanks him.

On the spiritual plane, Isaac is a picture of Christ. When Abraham is obedient to the Lord, the whole event is a shadow of what God did on the cross about 2000 years later, and there is much in history that points out that Isaac is a pre-figure of Jesus Christ: the Lord called Isaac, Abraham's only son "Even though Abraham already had two more sons just then. Likewise, Jesus is the only Son of God (Genesis 22: 2); Isaac would be sacrificed in the same place where Jesus was sacrificed at the height of Calvary. (Genesis 22:14); The journey to the sacrificial place took three days, just as Jesus was in the grave for three days and nights (Genesis 22: 4). Isaac himself carried the wood for the burnt offering up to the place, just as Jesus himself carried his cross to the place of crucifixion (Genesis 22: 6); Isaac is thus a clear picture of Jesus, and what happened on the cross of Golgotha. Abraham fully trusted on the Lord in the situation, and believed God that Isaac would resurrect again after the sacrifice. Abraham, Sarah and Isaac are also a foreshadow of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the Holy Family.

God had his plan for Abraham and his wife Sarah. Of concern, the couple tried to take the matter in their own hands, though God had given them a promise. Abraham also received six other sons with Ketura, who he apparently took as concubine after Sarah had died. These six were (Gen. 25: 2): Simran, Joksan, Medan, Midian, Jisbak and Sua. But like Ishmael, these sons were not counted as his true sons, because only Isaac was the son of the promise. It was him whom God had promised. It was he who inherited the promise with blessing, while the other sons were sent away after Abraham had given them gifts. And it was through Isaac that the blessing was passed on. Like Abraham and Sarah's family, God has a plan for your family. This plan will never be met by taking the case in your own hands. It is never through power and might but through the Spirit of God that God’s plan is fulfilled in our lives. Mary and Joseph in their lives have shown that God has a plan for each family, for every human being. In the holy family, God has given us an example. With the prayers of the holy family, every family can realize God's plan in their life. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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