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HOMILY 39 "Now, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him."1 o YOU SEE, [360] dearly beloved, how there is nothing idle in the contents of Sacred Scripture? Did you notice yesterday how in drawing to your attention the story of Hagar and her return home we gained considerable advantage from the exercise? We came to know, you recall, the patriarch's great restraint, the extraordinary degree of his self-control, the regard he showed for Sarah out of the value he placed on concord with her above all other things. We saw God's loving kindness beyond all telling, how on account of his regard for the good man he not only brought back [361] Hagar who had wandered in the desert and run away out of fear of her mistress, but also favored him with the birth of Ishmael, having in mind the great comfort this would bring to the just man and giving him a reward for his wonderful endurance. When Ishmael was born, Sacred Scripture , wanting to teach us the patriarch's age, indicated to us also the number of his years in saying that "when Ishmael was born, Abram was eighty-six years old."2 At this point, however, let us look at the sequel, so that we may learn once again from what follows both the just man's great endurance and the Lord's ineffable and exceeding love. (2) Now, we will know this precisely if we succeed once again in determining the years of the just man's life and the 1. Gen 17.1, a verse in which the Hebrew and LXX differ, and where Chrysostom differs slightly again. 2. Gen 16.6, reshaped somewhat by Chrysostom to make his point about the precision of Scripture. It is a pity Chrysostom's time could not provide him with the means to distinguish different narrative strands in the Genesis text and recognize the priestly contributor's fascination with chronology. 374 HOMILY 39 375 way the good God arranged the events that concerned him, testing his servant on each occasion and revealing the godliness of his attitude. Of course, he himself knew clearly ahead of time the sound dispositions of his servant, he appreciated the beauty of his spirit and recognized precisely the pearl that he was; yet since he also wanted to make him known to all the people of that time so that the just man's virtue might in future generations as well attract willing souls to emulation and imitation of him, accordingly he gradually unfolds the wealth of the just man's attitude so that we too may learn never to distrust God's promises, and instead of fretting at delay have confidence rather in what is not seen than in what is visible and before our eyes when the Lord of all makes the promise. We should also realize that it is not possible for what is promised by God ever to fall short of realization; rather, even if with the passage of a long period of time things contrary to God's promises transpire, our thinking should not be disturbed but we should consider the inventive and irresistible power of the one who promises and the fact that when he wishes to put his decisions into operation, everything yields and gives place. After all, since he is Lord of our nature and Creator, it is possible for him as well to bestow gifts surpassing nature. (3) Consequently, let us not become curious about God's doings by having an eye to our own limitations, nor divide our mind in two by keeping in focus the natural way of doing things, but like dutiful servants recognizing the exceeding power of our Lord let us have faith in his promises and prove superior to natural limitations so that we may attain the promises, enjoy favor from on high and have reverence for God to the best of our ability. This, you see, is the greatest reverence for him on our part, to have confidence in his power even if to bodily eyes things are seen to be in opposition . Why are you surprised if in God's mind the greatest reverence is not to doubt? Even amongst our peers, when they promise something of this perishable and passing world, provided we don't doubt but rather have confidence in the one making the prmise, all to a man consider the greatest sign 376 ST. JOHN...


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