A New Life, A New Self
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

- Genesis 18:1-15

Recently I met two interesting women at the Catholic Worker soup line where I volunteer. Both are also volunteers. One is a middle aged mother of two adult children. Now that her children are all grown up, she does not have to stay home to take care of her kids. This, however, changed her life a bit. She had to decide what she had to do with her free time. This led her to a new life: she went back to college, and in her free time, she volunteers at various soup lines. Her new life not only opened new vistas for her, but also expanded her capacity for a life lived not only for herself and her family, but the suffering people of God. Another woman I met was a nun for almost fifty years, teaching kids in school. She must be close to eighty now, and even in her retirement, she is still looking for new ways to serve God because she believes that God never stops calling us to new life.

In the Old Testament reading today from the Book of Genesis, we read the story of Abraham, who, at the age of seventy five, received a call from God. Here he was, probably retired from his daytime job, looking forward to a nice life of doing nothing, probably just fishing and barbecuing on some beach resort, but God calls him to do something else. There was one regret for Abraham: he was childless. He and his wife Sara had not produced children. They were both barren, unable to produce new life. But in that barrenness, God promised new life for them: Not only will they move to a new country but that they will produce children that will people the world so that Abraham and Sara will become the father and mother of many nations. Two things I want to emphasize from this story. Spiritual growth is not contingent on age. We donít stop growing because we get older. God calls us to an ever deepening of our spiritual relationship with him. For the Greek Church Father, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Christian life is about growing into our life with God. Virtue is progress and growth in that life with God. For him Christian perfection and virtue consists in the soulís willingness to keep growing in the knowledge and love of God. On the other hand, lack of virtue is not being open to growth and progress. It is when we shut the door of our hearts and soul to spiritual growth and we stagnate. The other thing I want to emphasize is that life has its seasons. Sometime life goes through a period when life is lifeless, when life is barren, when we feel that, even with good intentions, we are unable to produce good fruits, when we feel disappointed that dreams in life failed, and we have regrets. But even the infertile parts of our life could be occasion of growth. We are challenged to believe that God will bring about some good fruits from these barren moments. We can learn from our regrets. We can learn from our failures, and hope that from these, new life and a new self centered on God will emerge.

Lent is a period when the Church emphasizes growth and transformation of the soul in virtue and love of God. In the second reading today from Paul, he speaks of transformation in Christ. We are called to grow out of a life centering onto ourselves, and to press forward, to grow onto a new life in which we become more life-giving, love-giving, merciful and kind towards others.

 

©2017 Noel E. Bordador


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