This morning’s scripture from the Old Testament Book of Genesis takes us back to the dawning of God’s revelation, back through the ages to the time of the patriarch Abraham, the progenitor of the Israelites.
In this story Abraham, is summoned, by God, into a relationship that is called a covenant. This relationship or covenant gives rise to a mission and to set him apart for this mission, God gives him a name, and assures him that fidelity to his God-given mission will have a positive effect- Abraham will be the father of a great and mighty nation.
This story is signaling to us that the Israelites begin, not with politics or with culture, but with a relationship, a covenant with God.
In the revelation of Christ the Lord we come to understand that God’s purpose in the covenant with Abraham was to create a people who would be the bearers of his divine life into the world. This divine life reveals itself in all its fullness in the divine person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, the God of Israel accepts a human nature and becomes an Israelite. It is as an Israelite that God in Christ reveals himself to the world.
In his revelation to the world, Christ extends the relationship or covenant that is given to Abraham to the world. This is what the Church is all about. The Church is the gathering of the nations into a relationship or covenant with God. What Abraham received as a promise, is fulfilled in the Church. Through Baptism, God summons us into a relationship or covenant with him, and through the other Sacraments, particularly the Blessed Sacrament, this relationship is ratified and intensified. Through our Baptism we are given the name of Christian- that is, we become “Christ-bearers” and through Baptism and through each of the Sacraments we are sent out on mission.
Keeping the covenant that we have been summoned by God to receive results in the increase of the Church- it is our fidelity to the covenant that enables the Church to flourish and grow. If we do not keep the covenant that we receive from God in Christ through the Sacraments, the Church will falter and diminish.
There is a logic in the popular culture that measures the success or failure of the Church in relation to the trends determined by politics, economics and culture- by wealth, pleasure, power and honors.
Inasmuch as the Church conforms to these standards, indeed gives sanction to them, the Church is promised success. This logic is the logic of worldliness and is in fact the very thing that breaks the covenant. In fact, one of the primary concerns of the Bible is how Israel is time and time again diminished and subverted by strategies that promised the Israelites worldly success.
Our relationship with God in Christ is not a matter of conforming to worldly expectations or giving sanction to worldly causes.
Our relationship with God in Christ is about fidelity to him, loving what he loves and serving what he serves. It seems absolutely counter-intuitive to worldly minds, but the Church increases inasmuch as it is faithful to Christ and diminishes inasmuch as it conforms to the standards of worldliness. The increase may not be in wealth, pleasure, power and honors, but inasmuch as the Church is faithful, the Church increases in holiness, and becomes ever more like Christ- this is what the mission of the Church is all about.
The Gospel for today places emphasis on the identity of the Lord Jesus as God and this is very important for us to remember as we make our way to the events of Holy Week. We will have little or no appreciation for the mysterious events the Church recalls in ritual, story and song during the days of the Holy Week if we do not understand and accept the identity of the Lord Jesus as God.
What is happening during Holy Week is a revelation of God. The drama of Christ’s passion and death is not merely a human drama in which Christ suffers and dies as a result of political, economic or cultural powers. Christ’s passion and death is not merely a human drama, but a “theo-drama”- which means that God is revealing who he is in an extraordinary way.
Today’s Gospel indicates that in the midst of God’s revelation in Christ, many refused to accept or understand his revelation. As it was then, so it is now.
In fact, it was precisely because of our refusal of Christ and what that refusal does to us that made it necessary for us for God to reveal himself in the manner that he did.
The mysteries of Holy Week are God’s revelation, his answer, to all of our refusals to love what he loves and serve what he serves.