Commentary on the Gospel of

George Butterfield - Creighton University's Former Reference Librarian for the School of Law


I am not as old as Abraham was when God began to make the promise to him that this childless man would have children. But I think I can understand why he had some doubts about God’s plan for him. As I have aged, things I took for granted early in life become more difficult. Yesterday I told my wife that it’s pretty sad to realize that the hardest thing I will do today is put on my socks. I can barely bend and stretch enough to get it done. Have children at Abraham’s advanced age? Not possible.


Yet, God made the promise that Abraham and his descendants would inherit the world. Why is Abraham our father in the faith? Because he “hoped against hope” that God could and would do what he said. God gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist. Abraham didn’t know how God would give him descendants but he trusted him. He didn’t earn anything from God; he simply trusted him and God gave him a gift. You cannot earn a gift. St. Paul is concerned that some think that they can earn salvation by adhering to the law instead of through trusting in God. He points us to father Abraham. The gift is for anyone who follows the faith of Abraham. That includes you and me. The psalmist says that God doesn’t forget his promises - that he remembers his covenant for ever. His promise to Abraham is binding for a thousand generations. I have to write everything down. God, on the other hand, remembers his holy word.


In the Gospel lesson, Jesus basically tells his disciples to have the faith of Abraham. Trust me and acknowledge me before others and I will be with you. When you have to give a defense of your faith, the key is to hold on to me, not to worry about what you will say. The Holy Spirit knows what you need to say and will teach you the proper words in that moment. Living life as a gift from God can be a real challenge. I want to think that I have earned everything that I have. I trust myself. Why do I need to trust God?


I have finally learned this lesson when it comes to preparing homilies. I used to trust in my training, my studies, my brains, and my experience. God gives us these things, too, so we need to use them. But I learned that the key is to trust God for what I am to say. This insight finally got through to me about a year ago. I was to preach on a Sunday. During the week I had done all of my normal preparation; I had read the text, studied the text, prayed over the text, thought about those who would hear me, prayed for them - you name it, I had done it. I went to bed that Saturday night and I had no clue what I would say the next day. When I woke up and sat up in bed, I had a full homily in my head and heart. I had an outline, illustrations - everything I needed to bring the word of God to the people of God. What I learned through this experience was not a new method for preparing homilies - just go to bed and God will give it to you. No, that has only happened to me once in my life and I preached my first homily in 1965. What I learned was that, in spite of all the work I do, the key is to trust God who brings life to the dead.


Abraham had to do something to produce children. However, he knew that it was impossible unless God intervened. I have to do something to produce homilies. However, I know that they will be lifeless and dead unless God intervenes. We are called to live by faith. We are called to be the children of Abraham.


write comment
Please enter the letters as they are shown in the image above.