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The Beginning of the History of Salvation

- Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

The Book of Genesis could easily be divided into two different books.  The first eleven chapters of Genesis recount God’s creative energy and the fall of humanity.  We hear the two creation accounts followed by the fall of Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, the story of Noah’s Ark and the story of the Tower of Bable.  With each successive story, humankind sinks deeper and deeper into slavery to sin.

Beginning with chapter twelve, God acts to reverse that trend.  The beginning of salvation history begins with a simple statement.  The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.  (Genesis 12:1)  With this simple direction, God intervenes in human history to initiate a plan to save us from slavery to sin.  God goes on to make a five-fold promise to Abram and to those who do as God asks.  He promises them political stability (great nation), that they will be provided for (bless you), that they will be regarded as honorable (great name), that they will be a source of blessing for those who respect them and a source of damnation for those who disrespect them.  It is clear that God desires to intervene, to act on our behalf.  However, in order for the plan to work, Abram must respond.  Indeed, he does so as this very short passage simply says that Abram does as God asks.  He does NOT respond in words; Abram responds by simply doing as God requests.  For his response, Abram is regarded as the father of all who believe.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul urges his protege to remain faithful in the face of hardship.  In some of Paul’s other letters, he defines fidelity by using the example of Abraham who is “justified” for his faith, for his fidelity to the plans God sets before him.  That plan has been slowly revealed and culminated in the appearance of Jesus in our world and his redemptive death.  Paul urges Timothy to remember that the hardships that he is currently bearing are nothing more than the expected results of following the Gospel.  By responding with the same kind of fidelity as evidenced by Abram, Timothy bears witness to God’s plan of salvation and desire to intervene in our world.

The traditional Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent is the story of the so-called transfiguration of Jesus.  Peter’s response to this wonder is a typical human response.  He wants to build tents on the mountain.  In other words, he wants to stay there.  He realizes that it doesn’t get much better than being in the presence of Moses, Elijah and the Son of God.  However, Jesus simply says that they need to get going.  They cannot stay.  Jerusalem is beckoning.  In other words, God’s plan still needs a response.  We cannot simply sit back and wait for God to intervene.  If we wish to see our world transformed by God’s power, if we want God to continue to intervene in human history, then we must, like Abram and Timothy, remain faithful to our call.  Just as God called Abram and just as surely as God called Timothy, God is calling us.  God can act only if we respond to that call.  

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