I read the news headlines today and think good grief this cannot be.
In those days, the LORD said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,
and their sin so grave,
that I must go down and see whether or not their actions
fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.
I mean to find out.” Gn 18:20-32
The outcry, the outcry? There is no outcry, what this story condemns is precisely what my society promotes. It is what my leaders have been promoting for thirty years. It has been promoted every hour and every day for thirty years. Incredible! What Abraham thinks God will destroy, is today asked to be blessed. Vice has become virtue, and that is not merely the perversion of flesh. Ours also is greed, and abuse of authority, and perversion of the mind. It is not what the divine declares ‘good versus evil’, it is what man declares. It is not Abraham that should ask God, but God should consult with man. The cities I wander today.
I look at Abrahams questions, his “what if” scenarios. What if 50 people are innocent, will you destroy it? I think, wrong question. History tells that evil cannot prevail. The question to me is not will God destroy it, my plea is will it destroy me? With certainty I know the fate of evil, I pray that I might recognize it. I pray I survive it. Abraham had his prayers, and I have mine. Abrahams is a prayer of reason, mine a plea for safety. It matters not though, we both do the same thing. We pray.
That is what the disciples ask of the Lord. Lord teach us to pray. There were and are so many styles of prayer in the world, and those disciples wanted one that would work. The style of the day was long, and elegantly worded. It spoke as much of the person reciting it as it did to God. It showcased a rank and an authority, and it was not always directed toward the heavenly. No matter though, it was still prayer. Lk 11:1-13
Jesus understood the power of prayer, and He made use of it often. The disciples noticed the Lord in prayer, and they witnessed how it changed Him. They understood its power, and they wanted the same. When those disciples asked Jesus “teach us to pray” he knew both their needs, and their challenges. Just like today, they needed the power of prayer to navigate their world. The Lord knew they needed a prayer of perspective, one that put God and man in the proper order. “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Jesus knew the prayer needed to help them reach their destination. They are nomads, they need a prayer that is compact, one that can be carried with them and not recited over them. They were on a journey, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as in Heaven.” That was their destination, and their prayer reminded them of that.
Like the exodus they needed nourishment, on that journey there was no time to leaven the bread. “Give us our daily bread” will be understood when Jesus says “take this bread and eat it” That bread does not simply nourish a body, it powers a soul. It strengthens a covenant. It gives them strength to march forward to the kingdom preached. It is prayer of strength.
It also is a prayer of forgiveness, it is the reason their Lord entered into creation. That was for the forgiveness of sins. The Lords Prayer is a gentle reminder to offer the same forgiveness to neighbors that God grants us. That is the essential message of the good news of Jesus. It defines Jesus’s disciples. The prayer reminds them of who they are, Christians. Col 2:12-14
Jesus knew well the world the disciples lived in as He walked among them. He knew their Sodom and Gomorrah’s just as the Lord knows ours. His ministry opens with the devils temptations. Jesus knows our opponent, and reminds us we are being challenged. To gain victory is to recognize the opponent. It is to keep a watchful eye and that is essential. To reach our destination, is not to fall into temptation.
Interesting how “The Lord’s Prayer” fits the traveler who must walk through those cities Abraham speaks of. Abraham asks God if He will destroy the innocent with the guilty. Jesus prayer gives the means by which God will protect them. Have a safe trip.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time