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And Abram was ninety-nine years old, and the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am thy God, be well-pleasing before me, and be blameless. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell upon his face, and God spoke to him, saying, And I, behold! my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of a multitude of nations. And thy name shall no more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for I have made thee a father of many nations. And I will increase thee very exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, to their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee. And I will give to thee and to thy seed after thee the land wherein thou sojournest, even all the land of Chanaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be to them a God. And God said to Abraham, Thou also shalt fully keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee for their generations. – Genesis 17:1-9
Again God repeats His promise and renews His covenant with Abram. The reading begins by stating that Abram was ninety-nine years old at the time. The Lord waits until it is humanly impossible for him and Sarah to have children, in order to make it clear that Isaac’s birth, the fulfillment of the promise, is God’s work and not man’s. He is inaugurating the covenant of faith and of grace. All is from God.
At this particular repetition of the promise and renewal of the covenant, God makes a further revelation. He gives Abram a new name: Abraham, Father of Nations. Note that he is not the father of “the nation” or “a nation” but of “nations.” This title looks forward to the mission of the Holy Apostles, who converted the nations – the Gentiles – to the Faith of Abraham, after Pentecost. Abraham is the father of all the nations who come into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
God promises Abraham that His covenant will be “everlasting.” One day the same Lord Who makes this promise to Abraham will stand as a man before Pontius Pilate and reveal to him that “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).”
Let us trust in God and believe that all comes from Him, abandoning our trust in ourselves. Let us love the Church. And let us look forward to the Kingdom which is to come. Through our confession of the Faith and Holy Baptism, the God of Abraham has made an everlasting covenant with us. We have only to be faithful and to hope in His promise.
This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen