Sarai, Abram's wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, "You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!" But Abram said to Sarai, "Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please." Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the desert, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" She said, "I am running away from my mistress Sarai." The angel of the Lord said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit to her." The angel of the Lord also said to her, "I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude." And the angel of the Lord said to her, "Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin."
Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his great love is without end.
Who can tell the Lord's mighty deeds?
Who can recount all his praise? (R./)
They are happy who do what is right,
who at all times do what is just.
O Lord, remember me
out of the love you have for your people. (R./)
Come to me, Lord, with your help
that I may see the joy of your chosen ones
and may rejoice in the gladness of your nation
and share the glory of your people. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell--and great was its fall!"
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Like others of their time, for Abram and Sarah children were seen as the surest way to provide for old age. After many years of childless marriage, in desperation Sarah turned to the local custom of getting a surrogate wife to bear her child. However, when the maidservant Hagar conceives, she scorns her mistress for being childless; and Sarah blamed this on Abram. Since it was the wife's place to control the female house servants, Abram tries to solve the problem by opting out, "Your maid is in your power. Do to her whatever you please." We may frown at both Abram and Sarah in this case. But God showed compassion and cared for Hagar and her child Ishmael. This child too was promised protection and a future that was to bring much trouble to Abram's other offspring. Even today, the Arab descendants of Ishmael, and the Jewish descendants of Isaac are deeply antagonistic.
Weighty problems often begin when people act in hasty disregard for the feelings of others. Like Abram we can opt out of a difficult situation. Or like Sarah we can be driven by envy and spite. Yet, even amid painful consequences of our faults we need to recognize the purifying hand of God. This story was written for our instruction.
The Spirit of God can change our perspective so that our former enemy is seen as actually a neighbour, a fellow-member of our human family, just as Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, and Isaac, the father of the Jews, were both sons of Abraham. The eucharist that unites us around the Lord's table reminds us of our larger family ties, for in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Gal 3:28).
It must go deeper than words. We must do more than simply say "my brother, my sister" or "Lord, Lord!" It is not enough to make one single display of goodwill and then think we can forget all about our neighbour. A house of mere words will not last; it is built on sand and will be easily washed away at the next storm. Jesus calls us to do the will of our heavenly Father, his Father and ours. We enter the kingdom of God, the secure house of faithful love, by doing the will of God continuously and faithfully.
The two houses in the parable looked alike when they were new. The observer would hardly notice any difference between them. Yet, there was a crucial, invisible difference that only became visible when the storm struck. Then it was clear that the houses were built on very different foundations. One house withstood the storm, and the other collapsed. As things turned out, what was invisible was more significant that what was visible.
The same can apply to how our lives are built, in a spiritual sense. Two lives can look much the same, whereas one reasts on shakier ground than the other. For Jesus, the surest foundation for living is to hear and follow his word. He is the rock and if we build our lives on him, on his values and attitudes, our lives will be solidly rooted and we will come through whatever come our way.