by Father Mike Stubbs
Before coming to Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park, I served as pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lansing. When I told people that, they would sometimes ask, “Lansing, Michigan?” I would answer, “No, Lansing, Kansas.”
There is more than one Lansing, just as there are several cities by the name of Springfield in the United States.
It was a similar situation with the home town of Abram, later called Abraham. He originated from the city of Ur, which the Bible specified as Ur of the Chaldeans, to distinguish it from the other Ur (Gn 11:31).
The same passage in Genesis informs us that Abram later moved to the city of Haran, close to the modern-day Turkish-Syrian border. But he was not to remain there long.
Sunday’s first reading, Gn 12:1-4a, focuses upon the Lord’s call to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”
People will move away from the city where their family lives for various reasons. Sometimes, it is economic. A job opportunity lands them in another part of the country. Sometimes, a young married couple will move away to establish some distance between them and the in-laws, to gain more independence. And in some extreme cases, a person will move away from his or her family to escape destructive behavior and bad influences.
The passage in Genesis does not mention any of these reasons. It explains the Lord’s call to Abram to leave as flowing from the Lord’s desire to “make of you a great nation.”
However, later Jewish tradition elaborated upon that motive. It held that Abram’s father made his living by fashioning idols and operating a shop that sold them. The Lord’s call to Abram to leave his father’s house would take him away from a harmful environment that promoted the worship of false gods. The Lord called Abram to leave, not only as part of a plan to create the nation of Israel, but also to help Abram grow spiritually. The Lord wanted to free Abram from the bad influences of home.
That is the way God works. When God calls us, it often fits into a larger design, to serve the community, to benefit the world. At the same time, that call also beckons us to grow spiritually, to deepen our trust in God.
In answering God’s call, we will find blessings. (When the Lord speaks to Abram in our reading from Genesis, the word “bless” or a variant of the word appears four times.)