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Acceptance of God’s Will – From Abraham to Mary (First part)

There is an hebrew word in the Bible often used in particularly important moments: Hinnenî i.e. Here I am or better Here I am. Rashi mantains that is the answer of pious people. The expression indicates submission and readiness (Commentary on Genesis 22: 1). It expresses also the ubmission to God’s plan, an absolute confidence in Him, when God demands something of superior to human understanding. Hinnenî indicates all of this. It is a yes to the voice of God, which make the history of salvation begin. So man becomes instrument of this story in his relationship with God, declaring his availability to Him.

All this through a term that implies a totality. In fact, Here I am means that every part of me is addressed to God, it is in God’s hands, and that I will to submit to Your will. God requires total involvement. The whole person says I’m here. They are the very words of the jewish prayer Shema: God’s love involves all man, i.e. heart, soul, and strength.

Here I am implies a radical change, a willingness to make something happen inside and outside the person. There is always something before and after this simple answer. The something before the answer is very different from the something after the answer.

The word of God also passes through man as well as his design. The availability to the plan of God requires always some changes in the life of man.

Along the Sacred Scripture Hinnenî, and its Greek equivalent Idoù ego is enriched with further meanings and senses. Every time it is pronounced something is added at his original meaning. Every biblical text is explained by another biblical text. This is the best exegesis. The result is an understanding that embraces the entire path of the text, that projects itself it in the future, reaching the present day.

We’ll analyze some of the traces of this path, the most significant ones. We’ll discover the meanings that Here I am assume in the biblical texts.

The first time that this answer appears is in Genesis 22. Abraham pronounces it three times, two times as a response to God (22:1.11) and one in relation to Isaac his son (22:7). These three Hinnenî trace the story of Isaac’s sacrifice. The first Here I am at God’s direct calling expresses the submission and readiness (Rashi), perhaps still with the enthusiasm of the beginning, of the discovery of the God of promise. However, God wants to strengthen the Abraham’s faith, asking him to kill his son. We can wonder about tthis horrible thing following the words of Origen: What thoughts and what kind of things wake up in your heart? […] What do you answer these things? What do you think? What’s your question? “(Homily VIII on Genesis).

The answer of Abraham was another Here I am, believing that all comes from God is good form him. It is the faith at the God’s will, even it is hard and incomprehensible. It is the same Here I am that Abraham said to the angel, when his hand was stopped. Here we find perseverance, which is the strength coming from the unshakeable confidence that brought him to the mountain, basically for a meeting. A confidence which will end with the renewal of the alliance. This perseverance is a gift and generates communion and alliance, because it allows God’s love to flow through history.

The Hinnenî of Abraham is thus the Here I am of faith (also as a willingness to an incomprehensible suffering) and perseverance. (To be continued)

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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