Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
The first reading for today's liturgy always stirs my imagination. God tells Abram to look to the stars to come to some understanding of how many descendants will count him as their ancestor. Then he "cuts" a covenant with him.
First of all, the stars have always held a fascination for us. Though the cosmology that informs these readings is far different than our understanding of outer space, the lights of the night sky have filled our imaginations since the beginning of time. Ancient mariners used them to steer their boats home long before the invention of compasses. In our own history, the stars guided escaped slaves in their journey north. Even today, the stars represent a frontier, an undiscovered country. One of the most enduring titles in the television and motion picture industry is "Star Trek." I can just picture Abram standing in the middle of the darkness and gazing at the heavens as he contemplates the meaning of what God is telling him.
The covenant which God makes with Abram takes us in a completely different direction. The implications of this action are somewhat barbaric. As God and Abram pass between the halved carcasses of the heifer, goat, ram and birds, it is understood that they are saying, "May the same thing happen to me if I do not live up to the terms of this contract." Human beings have always had a somewhat anthropomorphic view of God. This covenant ceremony certainly reflects that understanding.
God's promises are trustworthy. The Scriptures reflect that basic truth time and time again. The faith of our ancestors was based upon that belief. We have the benefit of seeing those promises fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has gone the way of glory before us. As we gaze into the night sky and contemplate the stars, we believe that we, like Abram, will see the promise of eternal life fulfilled in our own bodies.