With this post, we get into the meat of the encyclical letter. Chapter One (sections 8-22) will occupy our attention for the next two weeks, exploring the theme “We have believed in love.”
Today through Monday, we will explore Abraham as “our father in faith.” Let’s read:
8. Faith opens the way before us and accompanies our steps through time. Hence, if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. Something disturbing takes place in his life: God speaks to him; he reveals himself as a God who speaks and calls his name. Faith is linked to hearing. Abraham does not see God, but hears his voice. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect. God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, capable of interacting with (humankind) and establishing a covenant with (them). Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a “Thou” who calls us by name.
This is excellent. Christian faith has roots. There is an actual “route” many others have taken before us. While each of us, individually and uniquely, has our own road to take, we have many common experiences. Variations on a theme, if you will.
Abraham’s theme is that of a person who personally heard the Word of God. He was called to change his life. He was given the promise of a future. He had an opportunity and he took it. He had a choice, and he made it.
Pope Francis defines faith as a “response to a word … to a (God) who calls us by name.”
Not all believers have experienced that personal call. But all deeply devoted Christians have. Sometimes that call is very dramatic. Sometimes it is very subtle.
Where is the intersection between faith and the personal call of God in our lives? Have we identified it? And do we recount the story so as to reinforce our personal tradition? Genesis 11:28 to 25:18 contains the whole story of Abraham–a bit smaller than the Gospel of Mark in terms of words. Would our personal story fill fourteen chapters? Or just a few? And if we don’t see it, reflect on it, honor it, who will?