Sunday, February 24, 2013

Count the Stars

Today I would like to share an insight into today's first reading that speaks to me in a special way. It is not my personal insight. I first heard it from Jeff Cavins in his Great Adventure video series.

The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

I had always imagined this part of the story very simply. Abram looks up at the stars, counts a handful of them, and then gives up and trusts that God knows how many descendants he will have, and leaves it at that. If you have ever had the opportunity to look up at the night sky in the middle of a desert without ambient lights, far away from any pollution, you will know how overwhelming it would be to have to count those stars.

But the reading continues. God talks to Abram some more and tells Him to set up a sacrifice. Abram sets it up, and then waits with the halves of the carcasses until the sun goes down!

There is a whole wealth of meaning in the way the sacrifice is set up and in Abram's waiting there with it and God passing between the animal halves, and I encourage you to read more about it. But right now I am just focusing on the fact that the sun went down. It's amazing how I never noticed that until Jeff Cavins pointed it out. What if it was not night time when God told him to count the stars.

Right now I am thinking a great deal about God's promises. Every day in the Morning Prayer from the Divine Office I recite the canticle of Zecharia in which he says, "This is the oath He swore to our Father Abraham, that He would set us free from the hands of our enemies; Free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our lives."

This promise of God means a great deal to me, because over the course of my life I have always been aware, and increasingly as I have gotten older, of how ensnared by various sins I really am. The sins that seemed so big and serious when I was a teenager, that gave me so much pain and grief, now seem to me just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the individual acts are whole vast tectonic plates of attitudes, attitudes of entitlement, selfishness and pride. Even as God frees me continually more and more from many of the acts, I am becoming more aware of these foundations. I am powerless to remove them. I cannot even touch them

In the face of this, God's promise, indeed His Oath, to set me free from the hands of my enemies seems a long time coming to fruition. It's almost as if He were asking me to count the stars on a clear blue blazing summer day.

And yet the stars are there. Blessed be He.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of thoughts... Firstly, thank you for your lenten posts, they are giving me lots of food for thought this lent.

    Secondly, I appriciate this reflection on today's readings. I had never caught that fact that it was probably day either:) (my sisters were a bit skeptical, however, when I tried to explain it to them:)). It is kinda like God asked him to count the stars, which he couldn't do of course, but he still knew that there were multitudes. He basically received a glimpse, because of his memory. However, it was not until he ratified his covenent with God that he was able to more clearly see what he had been promised. Although it was still beyond his understanding. For, even though he was there until the sun went down... before God came to accept the sacrifice a great darkness came upon Abraham. It is an incredible example of trust, but also of God calling us to trust Him even when we cannot see what he is showing us, that He is protecting us.

    The canticle of Zecharia is in many ways similar. He also had difficulty grasping God's plan, but he was less trusting than Abraham. It is only after John was born, and he could speak again, that he spoke his canticle... almost summerizing all that he had been pondering over those months.

    For all of us, I think, it seems like God's promise to 'set us free' takes a long time coming to fruition. To be honest, it probably will not be completed until we have died. Those foundations, due to original sin have (as you mentioned in your previous post) affected our very nature. Although original sin is washed away, the effects are still there and are the foundation for many of our struggles. Yet, God is perfecting us through our struggles, and often through what we see as the least possible ways. I don't know if you have ever seen the movie "The Reluctant Saint" (St. Joseph of Cupertino)... but in the movie he makes the comment that 'the more you look, the more stars come out'... even on a bright day, they are always there you just need patience and trust to see them (even if it is not until the end of the day).

    God bless, have a wonderful Sunday.

    P.S. Um... just a fun sidenote, you don't necessarily have to be in a desert to be far away from lights and pollution to see the stars:). I am blessed to live where the stars are incredible on a clear night.