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Holy Family – B

When people reach a certain age, they become settled where they are. What do you think was Sarah’s reaction when Abram told her that they were going to move? Very likely, she had a string of questions, starting with “You want to do what? Then, “Who told you to move?” “You don’t know where you are going?”

Even in the course of their journey, when Sarah overheard the three guests promise she would have a child: “She laughed secretly…” (Gen 17:17). St. Thomas Aquinas describes Sarah as one who struggled but then believed: “Sarah at first doubted in the first promise; but when the angel referred to the power of God, when he said: ‘Is there anything difficult to God” (Gen 18:14), she then believed; and this was, as it were a second promise” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews, 590).

We often hear of Abraham’s faith but the Letter to the Hebrews affirms that Sarah believed: “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11).

If Sarah had not believed, there probably would never be a journey or a child. Why can we know that? When Sarah told Abram that Hagar, the slave girl, and her son, Ishmael, must go, Abram sent them away, even though Ishmael was his own son.

Abram and Sarah set out on their journey by faith; they “went out not knowing where they was going.”

Sarah believed that God was faithful, as Thomas Aquinas tells us: “Although it was impossible she conceived because she believed… nothing is impossible with God” (Heb 11:8).

The prophet Isaiah recognizes Sarah’s role: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you” (Is 51:1-2).

St. Thomas comments that Sarah’s conception, as well as that of Hannah and Elizabeth are signs of the even greater miracle of the conception of Jesus by the faith of a virgin:

“But it should be noted that all the miraculous conceptions which took place in the Old Testament were as a figure of that greatest of miracles which occurred in the incarnation. For it was necessary that His birth from the Virgin be prefigured by certain things, to prepare souls to believe … Therefore, the Scripture shows the Virgin birth by the birth from sterile women, namely, Sarah, Anna, and Elizabeth. But there is a difference: because Sarah received the power to conceive from God miraculously, but from human seed; but in the Blessed Virgin He even prepared that most pure matter from her blood, and along with that, the power of the Holy Spirit was there in place of seed. For the Word was made flesh not from human seed but by a mystical spiration (Commentary on Hebrews, 591).

Abraham and Sarah supported each other on their journey by faith.

In a Christian family, the husband, wife and children are also on a journey. They believe that they are being led by God, but they don’t know what is before them. Along the journey, the husband’s faith is supported by the faith of his wife and the wife’s faith is supported by the faith of the husband. The children’s faith is supported by the parents’ faith and, in time, the children’s faith supports that of the parents.

Mary believed at the time of the Annunciation but Joseph believed as well. In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph were surprised to learn from Simeon that their child would be opposed – and yet they went forward by faith. We are also supported by the faith of Mary, Joseph, Abraham and Sarah.

The consecrated life almost always includes living in community. Pope Francis has written: that “Living the present with passion means becoming ‘experts in communion.’… we are called to offer a concrete model of community which, by acknowledging the dignity of each person and sharing our respective gifts, makes it possible to live as brothers and sisters.”[1]

According to Pope Francis, isolation opposes communion: “No one contributes to the future in isolation, by his or her efforts alone, but by seeing himself or herself as part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance. Such a communion inoculates us from the disease of self-absorption.”[2]

For Pope Francis, religious are especially called to promote communion: “Consecrated men and women are also called to true synergy with all other vocations in the Church, beginning with priests and the lay faithful, in order to ‘spread the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries.”[3]

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

An English translation and the Latin text for St Thomas Aquinas’ Letter to the Hebrews is available at the website as well as volume 41, The Works of St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by F.R. Larcher, O.P., edited by J. Mortensen and E. Alarcón, available through the Aquinas Institute, Lander Wyoming


[1] Francis, Witnesses of Joy, 2.

[2] Francis, Witnesses of Joy, 3.

[3] Francis, Witnesses of Joy, 3.

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