This is the second article in a series about figures in Salvation history and their relevance for catechists.
Every catechist is probably familiar with some of the stories about the patriarch Abraham.
Abraham—originally known as Abram—was a wealthy man in the ancient city of Ur. God called 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.” (Genesis 12:1–2) Trusting in God, Abram and his wife Sarai gathered their entire household and travelled into the desert.
God made a covenant with Abram. “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” (Genesis 17:1–2) God then gave Abram and Sarai new names: Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham haggled with God to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” he asked God. (Genesis 18:23) God listened patiently as Abraham made repeated counter-offers until it became apparent there were no good people in those cities other than those in the households of Abraham and his brother, Lot.
After many years of desperate hope, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with the birth of a son, Isaac, despite their advanced age. Abraham took Isaac up a mountain at God’s command to make of him a burnt offering. At the very moment Abraham was ready to slay his own son, an angel stopped him, saying, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12) Abraham saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket and sacrificed it instead.
These stories help us unlock the meaning of Jesus’ mission on earth. Abraham holds pride of place in the family lineage of Jesus. Matthew mentions him first in the genealogy we hear at Mass on Christmas Eve. (Matthew 1:1–25) Abraham was the first person after the Flood to hear the voice of God. His total trust in God is an example for us.
Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah foreshadows Christ’s intercession on our behalf and encourages us to intercede for others. The miraculous birth of an only son to Abraham and his elderly wife Sarah is a foretaste of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus. God established a covenant with Abraham and all his descendants—a continuation of the promise made to Adam and Eve that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Finally, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son anticipates the sacrifice God the Father will make of his only Son for our salvation.
The stories of Abraham and other important figures of the Old Testament are not simply interesting tales or legends. They help us understand and teach others about God’s eternal promise of love.
What other stories from the Old Testament help you understand God’s love for us?
Read the first article in the series: Biblical Literacy for Catechists: Adam and Eve.
The sixth-grade program of the Christ Our Life series is devoted to the study of God’s saving love as it is revealed in Sacred Scripture, particularly the Old Testament. The book is designed to help the students increase their knowledge of Salvation history so that they may respond to God with ever-deepening love and gratitude.