Abraham was taken outside by God to look at the stars. Then, God asked him to count the stars. This was impossible with the human eye alone without special instruments along with the human eye. God didn’t want him to count them. Rather, He wanted to show Abraham that with God there are no limits. True to His word, Sarah along with Abraham could begin a people of immense numbers. This took great faith on their parts.
St Patrick put his faith in God in similar circumstances to Abraham. As a slave in Ireland, he spent many long nights looking after animals. Like Abraham, Patrick spent a lot of that time praying. He got to know God and fell in love with Him. When Patrick got his freedom, he freely came back to be a priest to the Irish people.
Abraham had to leave his home country as did Patrick. This rings a bell with me. I have lived more than half my life as a priest outside Ireland. At night, I can still look at the stars and know that I am part of a greater world and living in hope of a permanent home with God in Heaven.
Many of you are also far from home and there are times when you probably miss your home country and your family. Abraham learned that you are at home once our Father is with us. Our true home is in Heaven. St Paul puts this clearly in the Second Reading at Mass – “For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
When Patrick instructed the Irish people, he used what he could to bring home the Word of God. He lit a Paschal Fire to show the rising of Christ. Perhaps the biggest challenge he faced was to get across the doctrine of the Trinity. He had seen that there was a plentiful supply of a little plant with three leaves on one stem – the shamrock! To this day, this has been associated with Ireland on items from butter wrapping to the tail fin of the Irish national airline.
This weekend is Second Sunday of Lent. We go with Jesus and Apostles to the Transfiguration. He had told the Apostles that He must suffer and die. So that they would not be overwhelmed by sadness, He gave them a glimpse of a crown that follows a Cross.