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. "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." Abram went as the LORD directed him. (Genesis 12:1-4a)
Because of the very last line of today's first reading, we might think that this passage is about Abram. After all, Abram responds to God's "request." Most of us, most of all human beings would rather stay put than move to a new home. Perhaps I am transferring my own thoughts and feelings about moving to the rest of humanity, but I will admit that even though I have chosen the vocation of an itinerant, I prefer to stay put.
Upon reflection, however, it becomes quite evident that this passage from the Book of Genesis is not about Abram. Rather it is all about God. The first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis chronicle the gradual descent of humankind from the "very good" creature that God places in the Garden of Eden to the human community which is so corrupt that God washes most of them away in the great flood. Adam and Eve succumb to the temptations of the serpent. Cain murders his brother Abel. The people give in to depravity and prompt God's wrath which takes the form of the Great Flood. Finally, the people of the valley of Shinar start to take so much pride in their accomplishments that they believe that they no longer need God. God confuses their languages at the Tower of Babel.
Chapter twelve of the Book of Genesis begins with the call of Abram. God asks Abram to leave behind his past (his history in Ur of the Chaldees), his present (his extended family), and his future (his inheritance) and move to a strange new land whither God will lead him. From this point on, God's plan of salvation will unfold until the promise God made after the fall of Adam and Eve is fulfilled in Jesus. While it is true that Abram cooperates with God and heeds the call, the more important point of the reading is to illustrate the lengths to which God is willing to go to bring about our salvation.
While Abram leaves behind a great deal, God makes a five-fold promise to Abram should he choose to obey and to accept God's call. God will make him a great nation. God will bless him (provide for him). God will make him a source of blessing for others. God will bless those who bless Abram. Finally, God will curse those who curse Abram. We can sum all of these promises up by saying that Abram will become the mediator of God's grace for the rest of humanity.
As we make our way through our Lenten sojourn, let us always remember that just as God called Abram, God also calls us. Responding to God's invitation leads us to the life promised us through the Resurrection of Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator