Today’s Genesis narrative can seem like Abraham is playing the Let’s Make a Deal game show with God. While couched in respectful language, Abraham’s step by step negotiation with God seems demanding and even pushy. Yet he also appeals to all that we trust in God’s generous forgiveness and abundant mercy. God “rewards” Abraham for his own persistence.
God also answers Abraham because he is asking for all of these things on behalf of people he doesn’t know – strangers and aliens – sinners and saints — the good, the bad and the ugly as it were. Abraham actually risks his own relationship with God on behalf of these strangers. Abraham places the needs of others before his own. His up-front love and forgiveness for these others even seems to surpass God’s own.
It is said that a teacher’s greatest success comes when her student’s success and achievement vastly exceeds that of her own teacher. Abraham is considered the patriarch of three great world religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – because he exemplifies the greatest hopes of believers in our relationship with God. Abraham shows us how to converse personally with God, to respect God in friendship, and even how to risk offending God on behalf of our neighbors: those whom we know and like; those whom we don’t like; and yes, even those we don’t want to know.
Do I pray for the needs of other people, and seek myself to generously serve and care for others?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus