The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
The first reading begins with a glimpse at an intimate conversation. There’s no dramatic “reveal” of God appearing, no messenger who says “get ready, God has something to say to you.” It’s obviously not the first time Abram and God have had a chat. This time, however, something prompted God to stop and say, “Come outside with me, Abram. I want to make a point…..”
“Look up and count the stars if you can,” God says. (Hint: he can’t.) “Just so shall your descendants be.” (What? He has no children and is getting up in years). Perhaps Abram looked around to assure himself that God was not directing this statement to someone else standing nearby. (Hint: God wasn’t.)
God made His point. Abram started to understand the power of one – one good person, one faithful act, one moment of trust – and the impact it can have. We know it as the ripple effect: one stone in the water creates so much movement that the ripples go on and on for quite some time. What’s remarkable is that the power of one faithful man’s conversations with God starts the movement that establishes God’s chosen people, creates a way of life that is intertwined with holiness, leads to the gift of Christ and culminates in the Christian way of believing and living. One man, descendants as numerous as the stars.
In our work at Catholic Charities, we see the power of one daily. One moment of relief when a utility bill is paid and the lights stay on, leading to a child’s ability to do homework and succeed in school. One practice interview creates a confidence level that allows a job seeker to highlight their strengths to a potential employer and land a job. Each allows our neighbors to make one more step away from poverty’s grasp and create a different trajectory for their own life, and the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Abram couldn’t count the stars. We can’t count the impact of our work on future generations. But God assures us that it’s there – deeper than we can imagine.
Susan Walker is the Executive Director of Outreach and Engagement at Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph.