Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Isaac and Ishmael: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

           We had a curious reading this morning from Genesis that shared the story of Ishmael and Isaac.
            First, we may think Sarah is a jerk to her maid Hagar: “Drive out that slave and her son!  No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”  But we need to approach such a text with careful interpretation.  Isaac was the rightful heir because he was the son of Abraham and Sarah.
            We also see in this narrative the common origins of Jews, Christians and Muslims.  Indeed, each of our religions refers to Abraham as our father of faith.
            One of the themes of the Old Testament is God’s election—His choice—of Israel as His people.  God chooses Isaac and Isaac’s line as the elect.
            While there are passages in Scripture where God seemingly deals harshly with those outside of the chosen people of Israel, this passage describes one of many times God blesses those not in the chosen fold.  What is the matter, Hagar?  Don’t be afraid; God has heard the boy’s cry in this plight of his.  Arise, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation.”  Interestingly enough, Muslims do make up a great nation today. 
            Finally, where a mother was at the heart of the original break of the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, a Mother is also at the heart of conversion to Christ.  Muslims honor Jesus’ Mother to a high degree—and this had led to many conversions from Islam to Christianity.
            This passage—perhaps confusing at the surface—is a good representation of readings in the Old Testament.  We need to dig deeper to understand the many layers going on and just how great God’s love is to us.

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