When we go shopping in a store we are used to seeing the price of clothing, or produce, clearly marked for the customer. We decide if we want the item and are willing to pay the price marked. It is as direct as that. But in some countries and cultures, where there are open-air markets, prices for items are not fixed. The potential customer asks, "How much for this?" The vendor quotes the price and then the bargaining begins, with the customer hoping to get a lower price and the seller a higher one.
The bargaining process comes to mind as I hear today’s Genesis reading of the "bargaining"between Abraham and God over the fate of Sodom. Isn’t it a charming and even humorous story? A human being doing "deal-making" with God over the fate of humans caught in a sinful city! God hears about the evils done in Sodom and Gomorrah and decides to "go down" for a closer look, ready to wipe out Sodom because of its sinful behavior. That’s when Abraham begins to bargain with God.
No one takes the story literally. But we get the point of the negotiations between the two. The author of Genesis is showing Abraham’s hope to save innocent lives. Through this seeming-folktale a biblical theme emerges. What concerns Abraham should concern all believers – innocent life should be saved from destruction. While we look forward to eternal life, we cannot ignore what is before us now: people suffering violence and destruction, as they are experiencing today in Ukraine and on our gun-proliferated streets.
The narrative negotiations between Abraham and God also reminds us that, while God values the survival of the good, God also withholds punishment for the guilty. God’s character is revealed in this passage and anticipates the mercy and compassion that will come to all Abraham’s descendants in faith through the mission of Jesus.
God seems to have lost the haggling with Abraham. Maybe God "loses" the bargaining because the humans of Sodom and Gomorrah, though sinful, were of more concern to God than they were to Abraham bargaining on their behalf. God seems to want to lose this debate; is ready and willing to give in to Abraham’s haggling, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy." Our ancestors not only chuckled as they told this story, their jaws must have dropped in awe... "What a God we have, so ready to be merciful to the entire population of two sinful cities for the sake of a few!" This is the God the Jews worship in awe and reverence, with passionate commitment and trust, the God of mercy whose ear is turned towards those who address God. At today’s Eucharist we might let our jaws drop too as we worship our merciful God in awe and gratitude.
We will see fulfilled in the gospel what was revealed through our ancestor Abraham: through Christ we have an intimacy with God that drives out fear and hesitation as we turn to God in prayer. Jesus encourages this when he says, "When you pray say, ‘Abba.’" He teaches us to pray with perseverance, trusting that God will open the door to our prayer; boldness, as we pray in situations that seem hopeless.
I sat behind a couple with an infant son on a recent three-hour flight. The baby was a charmer and as the boarding passengers came past the family’s seats they would wave and flirt with the child. When we took off and for a good portion of the flight, the young parents did everything they could to occupy, distract and care for their child. They fed the boy several times; entertained him with toys; past him back and forth between them when he fussed; walked him up and down the aisle to occupy him, etc. None of what that mom and dad did for the child would surprise us. Parents do that and infinitely more for their children. Still, we humans are imperfect and Jesus tells us today, "How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." If a parent… how much more God?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray after they observed him praying. Perhaps they wanted a share in what they observed about Jesus’ union with God. He welcomes them into his experience of God and teaches them to pray as individuals and as a community, as beloved children of a loving and caring God.
Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter and has different language than the one we commonly pray from Matthew. The difference in its language and length demonstrate that prayer is not an exercise in getting the exact words, or a prescribed formula in order that we "pray properly." A parent doesn’t require an infant to always ask for what they need in correct grammar and words. So, to quote Jesus again, "How much more,"... will God hear our prayer?"
Along with the Our Father are Jesus’s teachings on prayer. In his parables he encourages persistence in prayer. In fact, the text in the original language invites us to "shamelessness" in our prayer. It is like the person who comes to a neighbor and friend asking for bread at midnight and will stop knocking until his friend fulfills his request. How embarrassing for the persistent petitioner. In a small village everyone must have heard about his lack of bread for a visitor. That would be shameless in a culture that put such a high price on hospitality. And so, Jesus implies, if even we would respond to a persistent friend in need, "How much more will God" ...respond to our prayer?
Jesus wraps up his teachings about prayer telling his disciples that God’s desire is to do good for us even when we feel we are pestering God. Or, when God seems to have turned a cold shoulder to our urgent requests. The good news he reveals to us is that we are to feel secure and not doubt God’s love, even when life mounts hardships against us. We must ask, seek and knock, knowing that a loving God is ready to respond in some way.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
—Franciscan Mission Service
Should not the judge of the world act with justice?
— Genesis 18:25
Biblical justice calls us to ensure that all life is respected with dignity as created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and Catholic Social Teaching (CST) also calls us to respect the rights of all. Some think that CST is a recent development in the Church when, in fact, it is as old as the biblical texts.
In its early history, the Christian Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire. When we read the Book of Acts, we see how the early Church was very communal in nature, looking out for the least among them, and being corrected by Paul when the communities fell away from the way of the Lord. In 313 C.E., Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan ending all religious persecution and in the years that followed, the Church and State became melded. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church continued to be the power in Europe, even overseeing the activity of kings. After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, the Church lost its political power and the separation of Church and State became the norm. That was pretty much the practice until 1891.
Modern Catholic Social Teaching began with Rerum Novarum in 1891 as the first social encyclical written as a response to a changing society, from rural/agricultural to urban. The Western World had undergone the Industrial Revolution with questions on familiar topics including just distribution of wealth, the rights to work and own property, just wage, and right to form unions. CST was not a new topic. What was new was that Rerum Novarum was the first Church document written solely to address questions of social justice.
Then, in the mid-twentieth century, came the Second Vatican Council with its re-centering in Christ by going back to the fullness of the tradition found in the early Church in order to move forward from the Middle Ages.
Why do I include this brief historical time-line for CST? To show that Catholic Social Teaching extends back to our beginnings and is more clearly defined in the twentieth century. One of the main Vatican II documents, Gaudium et Spes, realizes that the Church, the "People of God," is called to live out its faith in the world, not apart from the world. Therefore, we must take action to ensure that all people are treated justly and with the dignity God gave all.
To learn more, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Suppose one of you has a friend,
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread...."’
Jesus says to us today, "Suppose you were hungry and it was late and you were weary of trying on your own, but then decided to hold out a hand to God. Wouldn’t God give you something nourishing? Something you needed and can’t provide for yourself? Of course God would, because God is our friend in the night." Then Jesus would add: "You go and do likewise."
So we ask ourselves:
I don’t want a moratorium on the death penalty, I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand why a county [USA] that is so committed to human rights doesn’t find the death penalty and obscenity.----Bishop Desmond Tutu
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
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