A new word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary a couple of years ago: selfie. It’s a digital picture you take of yourself that often includes a background of where you are or the people who are with you. While taking a selfie can be a fun way to capture a special moment, the word conveys the sense of focusing on yourself and making yourself the centre of attention. And what often happens when we look at a picture of ourselves? We focus on the flaws. “Do I really look like that?” “Gosh, my teeth are more crooked than I thought!”
Contrast this with God’s calling for Abraham, who was asked to pack up everything and move, and Abraham obeyed. Now, many years later, God tells him to look at the night sky. He promises to make Abraham’s offspring as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And Abraham focuses on God and believes him. He trusts that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. He looks away from himself and looks at God instead. As St. Paul says later on in the same chapter, Abraham “did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body as already dead (for he was almost a hundred years old)” (Romans 4:19). He didn’t focus on his flaws or his shortcomings, but only on God’s promise. And for this, God considered him righteous.
God wants us to focus on him—not because he is self-absorbed, but because he knows how much it will help us. He wants us to know what it’s like to be loved completely and unconditionally—warts and all. That way, we won’t focus on our weaknesses and feel helpless. Rather, we’ll focus on his mercy and acceptance, drawing from his love the strength and confidence we need to be faithful to our vocation.