Memory of the Church

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Genesis 17, 3-9

And Abram bowed to the ground. God spoke to him as follows,

'For my part, this is my covenant with you: you will become the father of many nations.

And you are no longer to be called Abram; your name is to be Abraham, for I am making you father of many nations.

I shall make you exceedingly fertile. I shall make you into nations, and your issue will be kings.

And I shall maintain my covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, as a covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

And to you and to your descendants after you, I shall give the country where you are now immigrants, the entire land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity. And I shall be their God.'

God further said to Abraham, 'You for your part must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The experience of exile and foreign domination - the era in which this passage took place- had reduced Israel to a small remnant. Put to the test was God’s promise to make of them a great and numerous people, in possession of a fertile land in a stable country, a safe and peaceful place in which to thrive. In those times of slavery, deprivation and suffering - which happen to the Jewish people whenever they go away from God to follow other gods - Israel remembers the ancient promises of the "everlasting covenant" God made to Abraham to make him "father of a multitude of nations” and to dwell in the land of Canaan: "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant "(vv.6-7). In remembering this covenant, the people of Israel do not simply invoke an ancient memory; they do not merely return to the memory of a glorious past. Rather, the memory makes the promise current. This is so, even for us, disciples of Jesus, every time we listen to Scripture. When we open the book of the Holy Scripture, especially in moments of common prayer, the Lord comes down again in the midst of his people and speaks to us. He rebuilds us as a people who listen to his Word; he strengthens us with His Spirit and restores in us his dream. He invigorates in us the call to be witnesses of His love in the world and gives us the promise of the future. Of course, the alliance also requires a commitment on our part, not only as individuals but as a people. It is not simply a legal covenant, as a pact between strangers can be. It is a covenant of love, of gratuitous love. It is God, in fact, who first decided to offer his love freely to us --something we are not even able to imagine. For this reason he can ask of Abraham and of us: "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations" (v.9).