The first Reading was taken from the Book of Wisdom, (Wis 18:6-9), which was written in Greek in the 1st century BC by an Alexandrian Jew. It is one of the seven Sapiential Books in the Old Testament which include Psalm, Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes, Job, Proverb and Song of Songs. The passage read today presented us with a triumphal rendition of the Jewish Passover in Egypt in which the people of Israel were delivered from bondage while the Egyptians who held them captives received a plague because they refused to harken to the voice of the Lord to set the people of Israel free so that they could return to the Promised Land.

We recall that due to famine, which occurred during the time of the great patriarch Jacob, he and his extended family members migrated to Egypt in search of greener pastures. The Egyptians had, through the acumen of Joseph the son of Jacob who was the next in rank to Pharoah, preserved enough grains to sustain them through the famine. The people of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt later became bitter when the Egyptians started maltreating them after the death of Joseph. In the Wisdom’s rendition of the Passover, though Israelites were yet to leave Egypt for the promised land, they were however optimistic that their bondage was coming to an end because of the promises, (oaths), made to them by the Lord.

The second Reading, (Heb 11:1-2, 8-19), underscored the importance of faith in God. It gave classic definitions of faith as guaranteeing “the blessing we hope for” or proving “the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.” The writer commended the fidelity of the ancestors of the people of Israel starting from Abraham. He praised Abraham for his faithfulness to God’s promises. Abraham was directed by God to leave his homeland of Ur in the Chaldee to an unknown land. He left his homeland without realizing that the land promised him by God was the land of Canaan.

God made several covenants with Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan forever, however, he died without taking full possession of the land. The trust he had in God made him to realise that the Lord would keep His part of the covenant. Abraham put his faith in God and this was counted as justifying him. Eventually his descendants, through the leadership of Joshua and King David, did take possession of the land of Canaan.

Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac raised some moral issues to which explanations have been proffered by scholars. Some scholars interpret the story as being against child sacrifice which was prevalent in his day. Others believe that Abraham had unwavering faith in God that God would have a way to save Isaac. We recall that as he and his son Isaac travelled to Mt Moriah for the sacrifice, Isaac had asked his father for the animal to be used in the sacrifice since they had the wood and the fire to light the wood but no animal for the holocaust. Abraham had replied to Isaac that the Lord would provide. And indeed, He did provide a ram! Another interpretation which was advanced in the second Reading of today was that the sacrifice of Isaac was a prefiguration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The exchange of Isaac with a ram is symbolic of Isaac coming back from the dead.

The Gospel, (Lk 12:32-48), began with a positive note. It invited each person not to be afraid because “it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” The God who has called us by name, (Is 43:1), wants us to be happy with him forever. Our eternal happiness with God in heaven begins with our stewardship with material things. Hence, you are invited not to be selfish with your material possessions, but rather to use them to acquire “purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This challenge is similar to last Sunday’s Gospel where we were asked to become rich in the sight of God.

This is practical faith. Our faith should express itself in positive actions, just as Abraham had to physically leave his ancestral home of Ur in pursuance of the will of God. Similarly, St James had stated that faith that is not manifested in good work is dead.

With the state Parliament passing bills that are contrary to our faith like Euthanasia, or bills that may make it harder for parents to have honest conversations with their children about their masculinity or femininity without being liable to criminal prosecution like “The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020”; our Catholic faith may lead one to become a political activist or to run for a seat in parliament as a way to have active participation in the development of bills.

The fact that it has pleased the Father to give us the Kingdom should give us goosebumps and dispose us to be stewards of His creation, (our earthly Promised Land), by making positive differences in the world. Our faith makes us aware that we shall render account of our stewardship to God and if we remain faithful stewards, we shall inherit the eternal promised land – Heaven. Hence, each person should be mindful of the welfare of one’s neighbours especially the sick and the less privileged in the society.

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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