December 2. Abraham’s family. Read from Genesis 12 -25. Abraham is a giant figure in Biblical history, our father in faith and the first of the patriarchs. This might evoke negative feelings in those who reject patriarchy as oppressive of women. In the context of the society of the time women had their place; Sarah as wife and Hagar as slave woman had a different status. Abraham loved Sarah and her childlessness was a cross to them both, especially after God promised Abraham that his offspring would be as many as the stars. So Abraham had a son with Hagar his slave woman.  However, God intervened, Sarah became pregnant and Isaac was accepted as the true son and heir. Hagar and her son Ishmael were rejected and sent into the wilderness where they were nevertheless provided for. Islam traces its history back to Ishmael. It is also accepted that Abraham’s total and unquestioning obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac marks him as the man of faith with whom God renewed his covenant. It is of historical interest that child and human sacrifice was an accepted practice in some cultures. It has been practised until fairly recently but it is shocking to us now.

Pope Francis: By their witness as well as their words families speak to others of Jesus. AL 184. For reflection and sharing. In today’s society childlessness and infertility are problems too. How does the Church speak to such families now? What other faith moments in Abraham’s family can we relate to, including understanding our Muslim brothers and sisters as fellow descendants of Abraham?