Descendants of Abraham Gn 12:1-4a; Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; 2 Tm 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9 Peter and two other disciples with him thought they had seen it all. They witnessed Jesus heal all sorts of people: the blind, the deaf, paralytics, lepers. They saw Jesus expel demons from the possessed, feed thousands of people with a few loaves and two fish. They were with him in the boat when he calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They were astounded as he raised a girl thought to be dead back to life. Now they witnessed an astonishing and inexplicable change in his appearance. More than this, Jesus appeared to be having a conversation with Moses and Elijah. Jesus was aware of the impression the scene was having on the three disciples who witnessed it. Who would not be impressed? But Jesus orders them to keep silent until his death and resurrection, when his identity will become clear. Jesus came to realize that fulfilling his mission would lead to his death, but the disciples were not ready to accept this. Perhaps Jesus hoped that Peter and the other two disciples would help the others handle what awaited them all in Jerusalem. But that was not to be. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples — except for a few women — abandoned Jesus to his fate. The great spectacular miracles were forgotten. The disciples wanted a triumphant messiah, but Jesus gave them a suffering one. We have a similar alternative facing us. What kind of church do we want? A triumphant church that is focused on flawlessly performed rituals, or do we want a servant church that is a field hospital for the wounded, as Pope Francis described it. The Holy Father wants to redirect the focus of our energy and resources onto people who are on the periphery of church and society — all those need to experience the compassion and love of Christ. It is a servant church that more closely reflects Jesus Christ who came “to serve and not be served and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). The Scriptures are replete with texts of momentous importance — unforgettable texts whose meaning for the human family cannot be measured. Still, it is impossible to overestimate the significance of the four verses of Genesis 12 that serve as today’s first reading. This text depicts God reaching out to one person who did as God directed him. It was the beginning of an odyssey in which human beings were able to have an authentic encounter with the divine. Today, Jews, Christians and Muslims consider themselves descendants of Abraham and heirs of the blessing God graciously bestowed upon him. The Jews are children of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Matthew calls Jesus of Nazareth “the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1). Paul asserted that all who believe in Christ are descendants of Abraham (Gal 3:7). Muslims too count themselves as children of Abraham though his son Ishmael. All believe in the one God who blessed Abraham and his descendants. The story of Abraham’s call and his obedient response form the tie that binds Jew, Christian and Muslim into a family of faith and obedience. The beginning of today’s second lesson from 2 Timothy picks up the motif of God’s call from the first reading and its conclusion points to the theme of light found in the Gospel lesson. Paul reminds Timothy that the call that Christians have received from God came not because of their virtue, but as an act of mercy on God’s part revealed long ago in his encounter with Abraham. His call was a pure act of grace, and so is ours. Jesus Christ reveals the purpose of the call that has gone out to us. Jesus brought to light life and immortality as he destroyed the power of sin and death. What God began with the call of Abraham reached its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can only gratefully and humbly receive this pure gift of God’s grace. The challenge of the Christian life is to respond to God’s grace with the obedience that led Abraham to do as God directed him and the obedience that led Jesus to embrace the wood of the cross. We join with our Jewish and Muslim brothers in thanking God for numbering us among the children of Abraham. We express our gratitude by sincere mutual respect and love for all those who call Abraham “our father.” This was the dream of Pope St. John XXIII, who guided the church and all people of good will to the path of reconciliation.