by Father Mike Stubbs
With the current concern about world overpopulation, it is hard to believe that only a few centuries ago people were worried about the human race dying out.
After all, plague wiped out millions on a regular basis, famine frequently took a huge toll, disease was much more difficult to combat because of the lack of modern medicine, and warfare killed a countless number. Even with a high birth rate, it looked as though the human race would not survive.
That is partly why people then placed such a high value on family life. The main purpose of marriage was to produce children. It was not love or companionship. The children would continue the family name, as well as provide for the parents in their old age. On a broader level, they would bring hope for the survival of the human race.
Abraham and Sarah have already reached old age when God promises them a son in Sunday’s first reading — Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3. They have gone well beyond the age for having children. That son will represent the beginning of an enormous family: “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”
Abraham’s son Isaac in turn has two sons, Jacob and Esau. Eventually, Jacob acquires another name, Israel, and begins the people of Israel. In him, God’s promise is being fulfilled.
In a larger sense, though, that promise is also being fulfilled in us. Although we may not descend from Abraham by blood, we recognize him as “our father in faith.” In response to the amazing promise that God makes to him, “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” That faith would meet its ultimate test when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys God, even though, at the last moment, Isaac is saved from death. In that way, Abraham set the example for all of us to believe in God, to trust in God’s promises.
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family this Sunday, we look upon Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the model for our family of faith, and for all our families. They continued in the faith of Abraham and lived it out in their lives. As they encountered various hardships, they placed their trust in God’s love for them. They inspire us to do the same.