Things were sure a lot different in Abrahm’s time from the way we live today. For one thing, we don’t have slaves. That alone is a huge difference. Can you imagine being “owned” by anyone? Your life wouldn’t be your own. You might feel sorry for the slave girl Hagar for that reason. Can you imagine someone forcing you to … well, have a child for another couple? In our day and age this would be against our society’s law. It would also be adultery. This just goes to show you that God doesn’t think like we do. He must respect the customs of each age. And Sarai, she sure didn’t act like a very nice person during that time. First, she made her slave girl sleep with Abrahm and then when Hagar did conceive and looked at her the wrong way, Sarai dealt with her so harshly she ran away from her. It’s really unimaginable that God intervened in the matter and sent his angel to tell her to go back and submit to her mistress.
But, before we go any further into the first reading today it would be good to make note of the fact that Hagar did listen to the angel and did God’s will. She went back and submitted herself to her mistress. Can you imagine a modern woman doing this? No way. Many modern women who are hurt or betrayed by another woman, would never have let her have the upper hand in the matter. We are too independent to submit ourselves to anyone (especially American women). Hagar’s son Ishmael later became the father of twelve sons and the father of the Arab nations though, because of Hagar’s obedience to God.
The words in today’s old testament reading about Ishmael later came true though:
“He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”
This has certainly come true with the Arab nations and the Muslim religion. They have been at odds with one another ever since and it is because of the jealousy that originally existed between Sarai and Hagar over their sons. This is a very complicated issue, but God had compassion on Hagar and sent an angel to rescue her and tell her what to do to make things right. What is quite startling is that Hagar listened and went against her own inclination to run away, by doing exactly what God told her to do.
That leads us right on into today’s gospel. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
In the long run, it doesn’t matter what we feel about things or the words we say. It matters what we actually do. Do we consult God in prayer during our own difficult circumstances in life like Hagar did? In the first reading the angel said, “For the Lord has heard you, God has answered you” and this indicates that Hagar was praying for God’s help when she ran away into the wilderness to escape Sairi’s mistreatment.
Jesus also talks about depending on Him during all the trials, tribulations and turmoil that we go through in life when he said that the one who acts on his words, will be like a man who built his house on rock. Wishful thinking or depending on our own strengths can cause our lives to fall apart at the seams. That happened to Hagar but she had the good sense to not just pray to God for help – but to do what he said as well.
It isn’t the warm, sentimental feelings or the pious, religious practices that will make any difference in the end. It’s what we actually do that matters. Christ was also pretty clear about our actions (not feelings or pious religious practices) being the criteria that we are judged by in Matthew 25: 31-40, when he told us how he would separate the sheep from the goats. He told us that whatever we did for the least of his people, we did it to him. This is the corporal works of mercy.
So, let’s not just talk about God today but be people of action. Let us look for ways to show our love for God and for one another in concrete ways wherever we happen to be today.