He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’
But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
St. Patrick was born far from the Emerald Isle, in Scotland. The son of a wealthy Roman official, he was kidnapped as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he found Christ. In looking back on his distressing childhood, Patrick later wrote: “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Not all of us meet God in such a harrowing way. In today’s reading, Abraham has a calmer conversation with God that carries great resonance for our faith. This is the first time in the Bible that “faith” and “righteousness” are mentioned in such a unique way, and St. Paul comes back to this scene several times in his letters. As with Patrick, the man who would eventually bring Christianity to Ireland, Abraham’s encounter with God began with a trust and was bold, intentional and personal.
In this second week of Lent, let’s ask for faith like theirs, which goes beyond just believing in the existence of God to actually believing God and all the good things we proclaim today in Psalm 27: that God is our helper, our refuge, our salvation and our light!
—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation…
I arise today
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men…
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
—Excerpt from The Breastplate of St. Patrick