I am still able to hear my mother say over and over again to my father and my siblings, “Self praise is no recommendation.” This was my mother’s way of saying we should always do our best in whatever we are doing and let others score your achievements.
Our Lenten scriptures for today offer us an invitation to understand with new enthusiasm how it is that God speaks the divine Word, how God commits to that Word and how God fulfills the promise of that Word. It is God who makes the promises and it is God who fulfills those promises. The Lord is not in need of self boasting. The fulfillment of promises speak for themselves.
Abram receives a mighty promise. I will make you exceedingly fertile. I will make you father of a host of nations. That is a host of nations, not just the Jewish nation to come. Perhaps this is God’s way of saying Abram, now Abraham, will be the father of all peoples. The universal sweep of this divine promise is glaring and amazing. We might be tempted, as was Abraham perhaps, to begin thinking of a mighty family resembling the great family tree of the King of Siam in “The King and I”. We might imagine children everywhere from infants to young adults – all with one father. However, this was not what God had in mind. Abraham heard the divine word and promise but then had to trust that God would fulfill the divine Word spoken to him. He would have to wait until his old age to have a single child named Isaac who would have twins, Jacob and Esau. Jacob in turn would have his famous twelve sons who would become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. The key ingredient to all the waiting Abraham had to endure is trust. He had to trust God would fulfill the divine promise. He was blessed with an image if himself as the father of all. He would be the father of every race and ethnic grouping; the father of all in every land, far and wide; the father who eliminates all that separates and divides; the father who puts to rest any form of discrimination, resentment, envy or animosity. All would live peacefully the covenant life God formed with them. Trust in the fulfillment of God’s promise will be the hallmark of Abraham’s waiting.
That very same trust cascaded down every succeeding generation to the moment of today’s gospel. Would the Jews trust that Jesus was the final fulfillment of the promise God had made? Would they hear God speaking unity and peace through Jesus? Would they be able to see in Jesus the promise of reconciling salvation made manifest? Or would their trust be boxed in by personal agenda and self-interest? Would their trust be slave to their own version of how God must speak and act if the promise was to be fulfilled? Unfortunately, we are witness to demands that God accomplish faithfulness to divine promises according to the minds and hearts of human beings. Trust in God is encrusted with so many conditions that it sinks below the surface. In the end, God will be God and Jesus will hear and respond faithfully to the Father’s will.
Our Lenten scriptures for today call on us to trust in God in every way. We are reminded by Abraham’s course of life that God works in God’s own way and in God’s own time. Like him, we wait and we trust. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that He is indeed the divine Word spoken to us in fulfillment of the divine promise of salvation. We wait in Him and we trust in Him as we journey through our own lives, awaiting the final fulfillment in His coming in glory, the glory in which the Father clothed Him.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.