Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;
you shall call him Ishmael,
for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”
Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.
Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you deliver them;
that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory in your heritage.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
God has a plan for each and every one of us. That plan is for us all to share in eternal life. His desire for us to live forever is so great that he has done everything he can to let us know how we are to live lives that lead to heaven. And he has sacrificed himself, suffering death to gain our entry to eternal life with him instead of eternal separation. We only have to follow Jesus and begin living that life with him right now. If we listen to his word and obey his commands, we will inherit his promises. But that’s a big “if.” The choice is in our hands how we are to live. Are we going to be worldly? Or are we going to be God’s people?
Our first reading from Genesis does not give the most flattering look at Sarai and Abram (later to be renamed Sarah and Abraham). While the situation may seem ridiculous and strange to us, the practice of infertile women giving their maids as concubines to their husbands was a normal cultural practice to insure their husbands would have children. God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations. He was 86 years old; Sarai was not much younger. She did the math, and she acted in the way women of the time acted. But God had called Abram and Sarai apart. He took them away from their culture to make them the parents of a new people: a people that would live with God leading their lives, not the culture. He asked them to take it on faith that God would make them both parents and to live based on that faith, not taking matters into their hands in an attempt to force God’s hand. Though Sarai and Abram knew God, spoke to him, and heard his words, they still did not trust him, and they did not always work in cooperation with him.
Our Gospel today speaks of the people who know God but do not trust him or cooperate with him. It shows us clearly that living in eternity with God is about starting that life with him on earth. We are called apart from our cultures to be God’s people, to live in relationship with him now, to always trust him, to shape our lives by his leading, and profess his name. God has promised each and every one of us great things. He has promised us eternal life and happiness with him. He has promised us the fulfillment of our souls and our ultimate hearts’ desire. We must pray always that we remain faithful to him, not allowing ourselves to be ruled by voices and practices that are not of God. We must pray for the grace to follow his leading. We must always trust in his word and his timing. Let us pray for an outpouring of his grace today, to follow him and be his own people.