Faith, Hunger, Botany…. Advent

Abraham, our father in faith: 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” (Ex 3,6), capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a “Thou” who calls us by name.

The word spoken to Abraham contains both a call and a promise. First, it is a call to leave his own land, a summons to a new life, the beginning of an exodus which points him towards an unforeseen future (Gn 12,1). The sight which faith would give to Abraham would always be linked to the need to take this step forward: faith “sees” to the extent that it journeys, to the extent that it chooses to enter into the horizons opened up by God’s word.

This word also contains a promise: “Your descendants will be great in number, you will be the father of a great nation” (Gn 13:16; 15:5; 22:17). As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance… But, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken… It is thus closely bound up with hope.

Pope Francis
from the Encyclical Lumen fidei / The Light of Faith, para 8-9 (trans. © Libreria Editrice Vaticana) via

I just love this: “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.” Faith is not the result of book learning or thinking, it’s the result of action. Faith is the journey not the destination. It is the very process.

I also love the bit about Abraham’s faith being the memory of a promise, looking simultaneously backward to God’s actions in history and forward in hope to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

2. Did you catch Pope Francis’ You Tube message on hunger? It was back on Dec 9, but it’s never too late to ponder, pray, and act:


Pope Francis called for worldwide prayers to end the scandal of global hunger. He says we face a global scandal of around one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. One billion.

“We cannot look the other way and pretend that this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone. The parable of the loaves and fishes teaches us exactly this: that if there is the will, what we have never ends. On the contrary, it abounds and does not get wasted.”

3. Advent’s Fierce Peace
I really liked this insight into the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” image. Amazing how a little botany makes an image fresh:

The prophecy begins with a botanical reference—a shoot sprouting from a stump. This image comes from the cultivation of olive trees, an image also referred to in Psalm 128:3, which pictures sons as olive shoots around the table of their father. The basic idea is that old olive trees cease producing fruit from the main trunk, instead sprouting fruit-bearing shoots from the base of the stump, which grow up around the fruitless central trunk. One olive trunk could have three, four, or more mature shoots spring up around it, like “sons” around their “father’s” table. The “stump” is not necessarily cut down, just unfruitful. Here in Isaiah 11, the messianic king is pictured as a shoot and Jesse (David’s father) as the stump. This is significant, in that Isaiah is inviting us to see the Messiah not as another one of David’s heirs, who have failed to be faithful to the Lord, but as another David, a new son of Jesse.

Incidentally, today is Pope Francis’ birthday.

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