Scripture: Lectionary for 17th Sunday (July 28th): Genesis 18:20-32. Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,6-7, 7-8, Colossians 2:12-14. Luke 11:1-13:
The first reading from Genesis is one of the most human stories in the Bible. We see Abraham bartering with God to spare the sin cities of Sodom and Gemorrah. He continues to speak and dialogue with God as a friend to a friend—a true sign of the Yahwist theology which is so down to earth and anthropomorphic. We know that Abraham is a great ancestor (patriarch) and the Father of faith for those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—our God. Abraham is also a prophet who knows God’s plan. He speaks very eloquently in our passage about God pardoning these sinful ones who are in Sodom and Gemorrah and whittles the request for fifty, then forty-five, then forty, thirty, twenty and finally ten just persons to spare the cities and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, ten cannot be found. In his humility Abraham realizes that he must leave the fate of the city in the hands of God who will spare any individual who is just even if only one is righteous. We learn from Abraham the persistence of keeping our prayer life alive in the presence of God and not quitting when God does not seem to answer our prayer(s). We may wish to pray with Psalm 138 in front of us today for it is a great prayer that fits the scene: “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me….Your kindness endures forever.”
In verse 27 of Genesis chapter 18 we learn well of Abraham’s humble prayer and his lowliness. The Talmud ( a vast anthology of Jewish law and thought) states this about Abraham: “The Holy One (Blessed be He) said to Israel, I deeply love you, for even when I give you abundant greatness, you make yourselves small before Me. I gave greatness to Abraham and he said I who am but dust and ashes.” (b.Hul.89a).
Colossians is an excellent selection for the theme of Christian Baptism in the particular passage we have this Sunday. The thought may stem from a hymn used on the occasion of Baptism in the Church of Colossae and has the same profound thought that is expressed in Romans 6: 3-6). We are symbolically led down three steps into the water and then after entering it walk up three steps to our rising from death to life. Death and Resurrection are thus symbolized in the ancient ritual of Baptism. We are a new creature in Christ sharing in his resurrection. We are now friends of God like Abraham and the holy ancestors. Our faith has led us to Baptism and now we are strengthened each day through this initial sacrament giving us the right to the other sacraments.
Father Steve Tutas has these excellent comments on our passage:
Brothers and sisters:
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead
in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.
In his writings Paul repeatedly referred to the power of baptism which unites us with Christ and continually gives us the light and strength to journey with him…
This excerpt from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians reminds us of the Paschal Mystery. God who raised Jesus from the dead will also give us eternal life at the end of the journey. All we have to do is to believe in God’s mercy and place our trust in God at all times and in all circumstances, as we continue on the journey.
The Gospel comes from the Evangelist Luke who is author of the Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit as principal themes. Jesus teaches us how to pray directly to God saying , “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” We are made aware of the importance of forgiveness (Reconciliation) and of the Eucharist as we pray for bread each day . We learn to make holy among all the name of God and we ourselves revere it. We receive the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit both the sevenfold ones and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.