Gn 12:1-4a; 2Tm 1:8b – 10; Mt 17: 1-9
2nd Sunday of Lent
What does it really mean when the Bible refers to the Jews as the “chosen people”? This Sunday’s first reading from Genesis provides an important insight. God makes a promise to Abram and Sarai (soon to be known as Abraham and Sarah): “All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”
All the communities of the earth. If you read this story in the context of the myths in Genesis 1 – 11 which precede it, then the call of Abram and Sarai marks the beginning of the third epoch in salvation history. First, there was the perfect beauty and harmony of Creation from the hand of God. Then, because human beings misused and continue to misuse the gift of Free Will, sin and evil begin to tear at the perfectly woven fabric and things begin to unravel. So God intervenes in human history to do what human beings can’t do – rebuild the relationship between human beings and God. It’s a story of steadfast love on the part of God which, from a Christian point of view, reaches its’ fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God starts small, however. With one family. Eventually, the ancestors of this family will become a people, whose birth story is recounted in the first half of the book of Exodus. God spends centuries walking with the Hebrew people, teaching them, disciplining them, most of all loving them, until the time is ripe to open up this Covenant to the rest of the human family.
What does it mean to be the “chosen people”? Nothing privileged about it. To be a part of the chosen people is to accept the awesome responsibility to incorporate in one’s life and in one’s community God’s intent for how all people ought to live. Yes, Israel did not always live out this vocation perfectly (Who ever lives out a vocation perfectly?), but they did so well enough. From the Jewish people came that most precious gift of all – Jesus.
Like a stem to the flower, Jews and Christians form one people caught up in a relationship with a God whose perfect Love and Presence we have barely begun to understand.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
To read my full-length writings on the scriptures, go to www.twentythirdpublications.com. My latest book is entitled, Make Room for Scripture.