Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Genesis 21, 5.8-20

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham gave a great banquet on the day Isaac was weaned.

Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.

'Drive away that slave-girl and her son,' she said to Abraham, 'this slave-girl's son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.'

This greatly distressed Abraham, because the slave-girl's child too was his son,

but God said to him, 'Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Do whatever Sarah says, for Isaac is the one through whom your name will be carried on.

But the slave-girl's son I shall also make into a great nation, for he too is your child.'

Early next morning, Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, put the child on her shoulder and sent her away. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba.

When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush.

Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, thinking, 'I cannot bear to see the child die.' Sitting at a distance, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. 'What is wrong, Hagar?' he asked. 'Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy's cry in his plight.

Go and pick the boy up and hold him safe, for I shall make him into a great nation.'

Then God opened Hagar's eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the desert, and he became an archer.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The biblical passage that we have heard reveals a conflict between two women and two sons, between the free woman and the slave and between the son of the flesh and the son of the promise. The incident, which began as a trivial family conflict, highlights the fact that each person plays an irreplaceable role in history and that the Lord takes care of everyone. But it also highlights the fact that the Lord freely chooses who will play a specific role in the story of salvation, and this choice sometimes passes through human whims. As he recounts how the slave Hagar was sent away on account of the son of the mistress (Isaac), the sacred author is careful to emphasize how Abraham, who was troubled by the rejection of his son Ishmael, whom Sarah had requested, only sent him and his mother away after he had understood that God’s will passed through this painful separation. From the two sons two distinct nations will be born, with distinct histories and distinct forms of greatness. But the history of the people of Israel will only pass through Isaac. “Whatever Sarah says to you,” the Lord says to Abraham, “do as she tells you” (v. 12). Sarah’s words are considered prophetic, even though they were inspired by human feelings, because in a certain way they read the signs of history and move it according to God’s will. On the basis of this episode, Sarah is counted among the seven biblical prophetesses by Jewish tradition together with Miriam, Deborah, Hulda (these three are the only ones to be named “prophetesses” in scripture), Hanna, Abigail, and Esther. But the word of God also “opened [the] eyes” (v. 19) of Hagar the Egyptian and guides her so that she will live. The Lord gives her the command that we will hear him speak again to Joseph when he flees to Egypt, “Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him” (v.18).