Abram was seventy-five
Having promised mankind an eventual Savior to regain the effects of Adam’s fall, God gradually established the human ancestry from which that Savior would spring. In today’s reading from the Book of Genesis, we see Him choosing Abram (later called Abraham) to be the founder of the Jewish race into which Jesus was proud to be born.
Genesis tells us that Abram was at that moment 75 years old. Now, it is true that for some mysterious reason (probably symbolic) the bible attributes extraordinarily long lives to the patriarchs. No matter, here. It is clear that God picked Abram precisely because he was no youth, but a man of long experience and ripe wisdom.
In times gone by, most societies have shown great respect for their elder members, both as progenitors and as people of wisdom. In our own industrial age, this is no longer so true. People are pushed into early retirement just when their experience could be of most service. Families, too, less frequently provide a home for elder members. Granted, this is not always possible or prudent; still, it is very beneficial, particularly to children, to grow up with elders about to help and to look up to.
Actually, some people’s leadership improves with age; others start second and more notable careers late in life. Thus, Anna Mary Robertson Moses (better known as “Grandma Moses”) began her career as a painter when 80, and continued it until her death in 1961 at the age of 101. Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) was a minor political figure in Germany – the mayor of Cologne – until arrested by the Nazis in 1933. After World War II, when 69, he was called upon to engineer the recovery of Germany. When he retired in 1963 at 87, not only Germany but the world hailed “Der Alte” (“The Old Man”) for his successful achievement. Finally, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was 75 when elected pope in 1958. He reigned as Pope John XXIII for only five years: but during that time he launched Vatican II, one of the most influential ecumenical councils in the history of the Church.
Of course, not all senior citizens are physically and mentally ready for prolonged or second careers. But they should be treated not as a liability but as a distinct asset to society. Their presence reminds us of a past that had given us all we are. Their experience can help us to barge ahead more confidently into a future that has yet to come.
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q307: What does Abraham’s journey (Gen 12, First Reading) have to do with the story of the Transfiguration (Matt 17, Gospel)? Is there a connection?
This is one of those rare times when the Second Reading (2 Tim 1:8b-10) sheds light on the “connection” between the other two readings. St. Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we have all been called to a daily life of holiness. We can’t “earn” that holiness, that special close relationship with God; it is all grace that is given “according to His own design.”
Abraham lived his life by responding fully to God’s call to journey with Him, and he responded whenever he heard His voice. He reacted without question, trusting completely in God. For that reason he is honored with the title “father of our faith” and extolled in Hebrews 11 for his faithfulness to God.
In the story of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John are chosen and privileged to be witnesses to Jesus’ self revelation as the divine Son of God, the beloved. They did not “earn” that privilege; it was sheer grace bestowed upon them, inviting them to an even deeper faith.
You and I are also invited to this deeper faith. It begins with our baptism, when we are united with God in a very special way, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. He called us to be united with Him, and our baptism is, in fact, a union with His holiness. We are cleansed of all sin. The Transfiguration is really our own story, in one sense. We have become sons and daughters of God, Who loves us dearly and offers us eternal life and eternal union with Him. Our response to His invitation is the decisive element, a choice between eternal life or death.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus chose this moment in his life to disclose his divinity to those he had called as witnesses (CCC #554-5). The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of the glorious second coming of Christ and reminds us that we, too, will be transformed to become like him (CCC #556). It also strengthens us in our faith journey by building our hope (CCC #568).
We Are Called
Abraham’s call teaches us what faith is all about. He is called to leave everything he takes for granted and go who knows where — God doesn’t tell him. What does he do? What a person of true faith does: he hears and acts. He risks all, trusting that God will somehow fulfill his promises and blessings.
In the transfigured Jesus we see a preview of where we are going on this journey of faith: to a transfigured humanity. But going down from the mountain he reminds us of the costs of this journey. Jesus, God’s Son and servant, is called to be a suffering servant. The road to the final transfiguration goes by way of Mount Calvary. Paul reminds us of this when he calls us to join him in suffering for the Gospel.
Almighty God and Father, you called Abraham to set out with confidence along the path of faith.. Deepen out faith so that we may follow in our lives the sufferings, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, and so come to share in his risen glory.