Tag Archives: Sodom

Mystery of Conversion

Prophet Isaiah, Russian icon from the first quarter of the 18th century (Public Domain)

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24

When word came to the house of David that Aram was encamped in Ephraim, the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind (Isaiah 7:2).

Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Isaiah 7:9)

Isaiah advised King Ahaz to put his trust in the Lord alone. His enemies, Rezin and Pekah, were no more than “two stumps of smoldering brands” ready to fizzle out. Ahaz needed to silence his trembling heart, “remain tranquil,” and transform fear into courage. Instead of turning to prayer and faith, Ahaz was tempted to seek the aid of the powerful Assyrians. 

With compassion, the prophet brought his son Shear-jashub, whose name meant “A remnant shall return,” as a sign for Ahaz. God cherished Judah and guaranteed a remnant for himself. Ahaz had every reason to hope in divine protection. His enemies were weak, and Ephraim (northern kingdom of Israel) had no more than sixty-five years left before being snuffed out. Isaiah laid the facts before the king.

In God’s dealings with his people, empirical facts and figures seemed to have had limited effect. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum witnessed some of Jesus’ greatest miracles and prodigies, yet their hearts remained unmoved. Had the wonders been performed in the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, Jesus declared, repentance would have followed. 

Perhaps the religious status quo had become too comfortable and staid; Jesus met resistance and indifference among the chosen people, especially those in his native Galilee. The freshness and beauty of the person of Christ sometimes had greater impact on foreigners (e.g., the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman, and the Canaanite woman).

King Ahaz had the guidance of the holy prophet Isaiah, a man whose lips were set afire by the seraphim to deliver God’s word. The people of Galilee had the Son of God himself in their very midst, with hundreds of people cured from various diseases. 

Conversion of heart is a mystery. Who can understand it?

-GMC

17th Sunday C: Are Prayers Answered?

Audio version of homily here:

Two wonderful readings in today’s Mass for the 17th Sunday of the Year. (Genesis 18,20-32,Luke 11, 1–13)

The Genesis story says that God came down to stand with Abraham before two notorious cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, that stood near the Dead Sea. Should these places be destroyed? God comes down and looks at these evil cities with Abraham at his side.

Not a pretty picture, the two cities where corruption and evil of every kind have taken hold. We might imagine seeing the same picture in some places we know today.

But Abraham speaks up for them, and how familiarly he speaks to God! “Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

How simply they talk together. “How about 45 people? How about 30, 20, 10,” Abraham asks? “I would save the city for 10,” God says at the end.

We’re told something about God here. God certainly doesn’t want the world destroyed, even if evil seems so bold and prevalent. God who made heaven and earth stands with us as we look regularly at our world, seeing what we see and even more. God wants to save what God has made.

We’re also told something about how we as human beings should face evil in our society as we listen to Abraham, our father in faith. He stays hopeful about the world he lived in, even at its worse. He wants to save it too. Shouldn’t we follow him?

Notice Luke’s version of the Our Father in the gospel for today. Unlike Matthew, Luke omits the phrase “who art in heaven.” Does the evangelist want us to know that God is not a distant God, far away and unavailable–in heaven? God is the Father standing at our side, looking on the same reality we do. A Father who gives us daily bread and nourishment, who opens the door we think is closed. A constant watchful parent, ever present, never far away.

These readings invite us to pray to God in a familiar way when we face evil in our world. That advice might not be a popular today. Recent surveys of religious belief say that many Americans believe in God, but does that mean they believe in a familiar God, like the God revealed in our two readings today? Or is God simply unknowable, maybe possible, uncertain, or someone for an emergency? Is God someone we can talk to as we face hard days, and does God answer our prayers?

In facing the violence and hard times of today, we often hear calls for prayer, but today you also hear some say: “Forget about prayer, let’s do something about it.”

If we hear our first reading for today, Abraham’s prayer was doing something about it. His prayer came from his concern and love for people and cities dsperately in need. And God was not unconcerned either, if we understand our reading right. God hears.

Prayer is not something we should forget about. It’s the most important step to take when we need to be delivered from evil.

The Glory of God

I was surprised to see Harold Camping at his usual place on television the other night. The rapture didn’t happen May 21st, he explained, because God wanted to alert the world that the end was going to come this October. A caller wondered if we could do anything about helping this world of ours, but Harold was quite firm that God was going to destroy it completely. It’s an open sewer, according to him. Nothing’s worth saving.

How different from the Christian vision of St. Irenaeus, the 3rd century  bishop of Lyons, whose feast we celebrate June 28th. He condemned the gnostics– favorites of new age thinkers today– for their dismissal of creation as evil. The One God is the source of our created world and we know him through it, Irenaeus taught. We cannot know God if we depreciate or ignore the world God has made; it mirrors his glory.

“The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by us, that he may give life to those who see and receive him…  God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown.”

The Word of God has a twofold role, according to Irenaeus, revealing God in creation and finally coming in the flesh to complete this revelation in Jesus Christ.  No  one has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.

He revealed God to us and presented us to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent us from treating God with contempt and to set before us a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to us and made him visible in many ways to prevent us from being totally separated from God and so cease to be.

“Life in us is the glory of God; in human life one can see the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”

Harold should read that wonderful story from the Book of Genesis we read yesterday at Mass about Abraham bargaining with God for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The world’s worth saving.