17th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 28, 2019
Today’s first reading (Genesis 18:20-32) is one of the most important in all of the Old Testament. Abraham is having a conversation with the Lord as he visits the ancient city of Sodom on the Dead Sea. Scholars have long been intrigued by the description of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; where the city was located and by what means it was destroyed. Here the Lord God discloses to Abraham his intention to destroy the city for its wickedness.
Abraham for his part intercedes with the Lord over and over again in an attempt to save these towns from the ruin they deserve, and the Lord in the end listens to the prayers of Abraham. The Lord will listen to Abraham and spare Sodom if only there could be found ten righteous people dwelling within it. Think of it: only ten.
This story has profound implications for our modern world. So often I have wondered what on earth has kept us from destroying ourselves up to now. Even while human beings have continued to engage in war throughout history, our weapons have grown ever more lethal. Weapons of mass destruction are readily available and old hatreds among nations are as strong as ever. Who or what will save us from the world we have created for ourselves?
The answer is a surprising one. Though essential to our country, we are not saved only by our military; not only by our economy, not only by our intelligence; not only by our technology. No, the real truth is that the world has been saved primarily because of God’s actions on our behalf due to the prayers of the hidden, righteous people dwelling within it. Although such people seem to the powerful to be of no importance, their lives of no consequence, yet they play an essential role in keeping the world from destroying itself, because they are the friends of God, and for their sake, he keeps the world from being destroyed. Only on the last day will the world learn how many times God has intervened to save us from ourselves, and how great was the role of the friends of God.
These friends of God (hopefully including ourselves) try to accept their crosses as a sacrifice for others (like Jesus). They are the friends of God because, while not perfect, they try to love him by keeping his commandments and through prayer intercede with the Lord in a world where God is increasingly unwelcome. The Lord is looking for a few good friends to help him save the world. Will you be one of them?