Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
The word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with his love. (R./)
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine. (R./)
Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you. (R./)
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
The years of our life are hurrying by, each seeming shorter than the last. We are pilgrims on a journey from youth to age, from the cradle to the grave. In his dream-like poem The Lotus Eaters, Alfred Tennyson describes weary resignation, as one option we might take in light of the swiftly-passing years:
“Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.”
But from a heart full of faith and hope, the passing of the years can be seen in a more positive light. We believe that our journey is going somewhere. We have a destiny that does not end with death and burial, or cremation, if that’s what we choose for us. After this life, we trust we will emerge into a new kind life in God’s presence. On this earth we are pilgrims, like Abraham, moving toward the land of promise. Like St Paul, we try to deal with whatever problems and setbacks we meet along the way, with the help of the Lord. Finally, if we are faithful, we hope to be joined with Christ in glory, as the reward he has promised.
The English Evangelical pastor, John Bunyan (1628-1688) poetically described life as a Pilgrim’s Progress. In today’s age of easy mobility we are always on the go, constantly moving but often without any deep sense of purpose. In many respects our constant business can be holding us back from being all we are meant to be. Our ambitions and desires can be so short-term, narrow and superficial. Always seeking more money, or celebrity, pleasure and success, could trap us into a narrow circle. Life-pilgrims are focussed on higher targets, so that like Martin Luther King they can say: “I have a dream!” However hard to reach that dream may be, it worth striving for, quietly, day be day. Each day we build toward the goal God sets before us.
Can we see our own, personal life a pilgrimage towards God? Just as God called Abraham, so each of us is called to go on this pilgrimage. This quiet but insistent vocation to “leave your country and your father’s house” can be read as a call to decency and generosity, to “leaving old ways behind,” all pride and selfishness, arrogance, hard-heartedness, anger, envy or falsehood. Then the directive to “Go to the land I shall show you” would point not in a geographical but a moral direction. The divine command could be interpreted as: “Go towards charity, respect, justice, sharing in prayer and good-will. Go in the way of Jesus… and your final destination will be in heaven.”
Hearing God’s guidance and taking it fully to heart, made Abraham the great pilgrim of faith. He can be honoured as the patron of meaningful living. All his days were marked by listening, with openness to divine guidance. This makes Abraham “Our Father in Faith”, showing us the way towards Yahweh, the living God. His spirit can mark our lives too. Far from being useless or outdated, and efforts we make to follow the way of Jesus Christ are full of meaning. Progress along this way can bring us real peace of mind. As St Augustine said so memorably: “You have made us for Yourself, o Lord; and our hearts can never be at rest, until they rest in You.”