Day 8: The Surrender of Abraham

Genesis 16:1-16 Before God revealed his law to Moses, the patriarchs of the Old Testament followed many of the customs of their time. Two of these customs are related here: The infertile Sarai requested Abram bear a child through her maid, Hagar, and Sarai later unjustly dismissed Hagar after she sensed her maid had shown her disrespect. Throughout the course of salvation history, it is clear that God corrects the sinful tendencies of people INCREMENTALLY, sometimes tolerating certain evils so as to reorient his people GRADUALLY to the original holiness and justice for which they were intended. (CCC 68-73, 2567)

Ch 16:10 Hagar received a promise from God that somewhat mirrored the promise to Abram. Her descendants would become a great multitude, the Arab people of the desert. Historical and modern tensions and violence between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East are all the more tragic in the light of the fact that BOTH can rightfully claim Abraham as their father. Christians recognize the Jewish people as their older brothers and sisters since Abraham is their respective father in faith. (CCC 839-841)

Ch 17:1-27 As he often did when calling someone to a SPECIAL MISSION, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and he changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means “lady” or “princess.” In repeating his promise a THIRD TIME, God enriched his covenant, this time with obligations for Abram. He must “walk before” God and be blameless, a commitment that anticipates living as a disciple of Christ, seeking holiness and Christian perfection. Since God gave his word, the covenant was certain to be fulfilled, yet Abraham was more than father of many nations; he would also be the bearer of the covenant between God and the Chosen People; the New Covenant in Christ would be EXPANDED to include THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE. This covenant with Abraham involved Divine Revelation that would keep intensifying until its fulfillment in the coming of Christ. The descendants of Abraham would enjoy the salient feature of being direct recipients of God’s Commandments, which were a preparation for the advent of the Messiah. Every male among you shall be circumcised: Circumcision, the removal of the male foreskin, became the sign of belonging to this covenant. Thus, circumcision prefigures Baptism (TYPOLOGY!!) by which a person enters into the New Covenant established by Christ. (CCC 59, 527, 1250-1255) 

Job 5:1-47 Job’s former prosperity and good health seemed illusory to Eliphaz since Job had to have been a sinner, and eventually God deals justly with all sinners by imparting suffering on them. The visitor thought himself very wise and viewed Job as a pretender of wisdom who was being revealed as a fool. He told Job to look at the bright side: his suffering was God’s way of disciplining him as a good father lovingly disciplines his children. His friend assured Job that God would restore everything that he destroyed provided that he showed repentance for his sins. (CCC 2223)

Ch 6:1-30 Job sensed that God had abandoned him by ignoring his petition; therefore, he desired death since his tolerance for pain had reached its limit and he did not want to become embittered toward God. Job’s prayer was NOT SINFUL since he was asking for relief from his trials and would not voluntarily pursue death. It is GRAVELY EVIL for anyone, even the terminally ill, to seek death actively through assisted suicide or euthanasia; it is morally licit, however for a patient to refuse extraordinary means of life support that are burdensome and provide little or no hope of recovery. (CCC 2277, 2281-2282, 2324-2325)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Who was the Angel of the Lord who spoke to Hagar? 

The episode is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, the angel of the Lord, who could be interpreted as a pre-Incarnate Jesus Christ, begins in the same way that many other encounters do in the Old Testament, going all the way back to when Adam and Eve were hiding from God in the garden. He begins with a question—not in order to learn why she is there, because surely the angel already knew this. Instead, He endeavors to begin a dialogue with her, to relate to her on a personal level.


Second, the angel’s arrival does not address any pressing material need. We are familiar with the archetype of the forlorn wander in the desert, dying of starvation and thirst. But that’s not what happens here. When the angel finds her, Hagar is already near a spring (verse 7).

Third, the angel delivers a perplexing command: he tells her to return to her oppressor, Sarah. The angel’s directive can better be understood when understood in the broader context of the Old Testament, in which a period of enslavement is then followed by liberation. Moreover, in context, Hagar’s submission is also tied to the future prosperity of her descendants.

But there could be one more reason why Hagar is asked to return. In encountering God through the angel she has experienced a kind of liberation that is internal and spiritual, such that external enslavement can no longer rob her of her interior peace. Having met God, she is now ready to endure the trial of material slavery.

The ending of the account seems to support this conclusion. It is there that we get our big surprise: Hagar names God. 


Prayer by Fr. Mike: "Lord God, you are good and we know that you love us. We know that we can trust you. We know that you reveal your heart to us in your Word. We thank you for revealing your heart to us. Thank you for your Word. We ask that you please, in the midst of confusion, Lord, we ask that you give us your Truth. In the midst of suffering, we sometimes don’t want answers as much as we want you, Lord God. So please just give us yourself. Give us your peace. To all those who are suffering in this moment and also to all those who are suffering as they hear these words, your words proclaimed, Lord God I ask that you please give them a confidence in you, give them a trust in you, give them a faith in you, that above all things you are faithful. Your love is unstoppable and your love is sufficient. You are good and we praise you in Jesus’ name. Amen." 


In the New Covenant, Circumcision is no longer necessary.  Instead St. Paul refers to real circumcision as "a matter of the heart" (Rom 2:29).  In Colossians, he shows that this circumcision of Christ refer to Baptism.  Where circumcision was exclusive and painful, Baptism is pain-free and far more inclusive in every way.  It follows then, that if Circumcision included infants at eight-days old to become initiated in the Abrahamic covenant with God, why would infants suddenly be excluded from initiation into the superior and more inclusive New Covenant?