Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
the people he has chosen as his own.
From the heavens the Lord looks forth,
he sees all the children of men. (R./)
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine. (R./)
Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."
Abram's call by God to leave home an move to another country marks the beginning of Israel's salvation history. His response, when this rugged nomad migrated to the land of promise eventually brought a great blessing for everyone on earth. The mystery of divine providence cannot be explained in any logical way, why some are chosen and others seem (relatively) unchosen. The classic explanation is offered by Deuteronomy, where Moses says: "It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you, that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery" (Deut 7:7-8). From this text we see that God's basic requirement of them was a sense of humble gratitude.
Abram left Haran in upper Syria, going into an unknown land and leaving behind his relatives and his home and everything he knew, for the sake of a promise and a blessing. Even the new land was also to remain promised, never completely possessed. God said to Israel, "The land is mine; you are but aliens who have become my tenants" (Lev 25:23). Land was to be shared, so that no one would be homeless among God's people. Never to possess it absolutely, but always to receive as a gift meant that Israel was to be "the smallest of all nations."
The ideals of love and humility are implicit in today's Gospel. The humble person cannot be judgmental towards others. If we dare to judge their neighbours, they may turn out to be more righteous than ourselves. Humble people will not lose the promised land, the divine blessing promised to Abraham. Humility towards God sparks in us a spirit of kindliness towards our neighbour. To inherit what was promised to Abraham we need to respect the earth and preserve the environment, be disposed to think well of our neighbour, and be generous in sharing with them the blessings of God that we have received.
We don't often think of Jesus as using humour in his teaching. A real sense of mischievous humour comes across in today's the odd picture he paints (amusing because it is so incongruous) of a man with a plank in his eye struggling to remove a splinter from someone else's eye. Behind the humour there is a serious message. We must beware of tendency to be harsh about the failings of others while being blind to our own failings. Finger-wagging at the perceived failings of others is a real temptation.
In a recent exchange on television between a bishop and a newspaper correspondent, I was watching the body-language of both of them. What remained with me after the programme was not what either of them said but the sight of each wagging his finger at the other, at regular intervals. The Lord wants us to examine ourselves carefully before turning the spotlight of criticism on others. We need to be in touch with our own humanity before we offer a judgment on others, and then the more we know ourselves the less inclined we will be to accuse others of bad faith.