3 Pentecost, June 25
Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, having been weened and survived the dangerous days of infancy, could perhaps live to adulthood, live to rival Isaac’s positon as the heir of a divine promise. “[Sarah] said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac’” (Gen. 21:10). Every emotion is stirred. “The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son” (Gen. 21:11). God, at first seeming an indifferent and unfeeling character in the story, allows Hagar and her son to be sent away to wander in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. Abraham places provisions of bread and a skin of water on her back, where she also hoists her young son. Taking almost nothing for the journey, she carries a cross into the valley of the shadow of death. Genesis 21 is Hagar’s Genesis 22. My son, my son, my only son, whom I love.
In an act of mercy, all food and water spent, she places her son under a bush, exposing him to the elements and wild beasts. Sitting down opposite him, about distance of a bowshot away, she says, “Do not let me look on the death of the child” (Gen. 21:16). She lifts up her voice and weeps. We hear her. “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy”; “Be gracious to me, for to you I cry all day long”; “Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication”; “Save the child of your serving girl” (Ps. 86:1-17). Prayer like this is a bitter thing, cries and groans deeper than mere words.
We see through a glass darkly. Yet “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known,” Jesus says. “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops” (Matt. 10:27). What shall we tell? We will say that the hair on the head of Ishmael is counted strand by strand in the mind of love itself. We will say that the almost certain death of this child under the bush is not death when God comes. “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). We will say with St. Paul, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
Will God baptize and save the son of Hagar, Ismael, her son, her only son, whom she loves? Where is Easter? “And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Gen. 21:17-19).
He grew up, lived in the wilderness, became an expert with the bow, and was the father of a great nation. Though sent into the wilderness, angels ministered to him. Near death, he was brought to life.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 86.
Think About It
He lived in the wilderness.