Opening the Word: Abraham's faith

By:

When we’re young, we believe that prayer involves a kind of divine bargain. We get down on our knees. We say the right words. Then, God will act. As we get older, we become disabused of this insufficient account of prayer. This disabuse is often a painful lesson. We pray to God, only to discover silence. We bargain with God, only to see inaction.

With the right mentorship, we often can get through this early crisis of faith. We learn that prayer is not about changing God’s mind, bargaining with God. Instead it is a kind of dwelling, an awareness that our entire lives have meaning only in God’s presence. We don’t pray so much to change God as to change ourselves, to open ourselves to the hidden workings of grace.

But then, there’s Abraham. God comes to him, seeking to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah were cities of notorious sin. They did not offer hospitality to the stranger. They abused their sexuality, and, at the same time, they worshiped other gods. They did not trust fully in God’s power. God seeks to destroy this nation and unleash the divine justice they so rightly deserve.

But Abraham intervenes. Would God have mercy if there were but 10 righteous men in the city? Abraham’s intervention seems like a kind of haggling. Abraham seems to be the last person between God and an act of wrath. This, of course, is to misunderstand Abraham’s intervention. He is not haggling with God, changing the divine mind. Rather, Abraham is presenting to God a memory.

God is the one who has mercy, who remembers not only injustice but acts of righteousness from generation to generation. God’s justice is powerful! It does not traffic in unrighteousness. But God’s justice is hopeful, aware that a single righteous person can renew the covenant.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’s words on prayer fit within this memory of the covenant. Jesus first gives to his disciples the very prayer he offers to God, what we know as the Our Father. The Our Father is not a prayer that assumes divine haggling as part of human salvation. God is the holy one, the one whose name was revealed in the Book of Exodus. God has entered human history, dwelling among us, feeding Israel with daily bread.

God is Father, the source and origin of all love. And therefore, we human beings can throw our entire trust on God. If God cares for the birds of the field, then what about us? What about us, created in the image and likeness of God? What about us, redeemed through baptism?

This doesn’t mean that every trouble or sorrow will be erased by God. After all, the one who taught us the Our Father knew the fullness of suffering on the cross. He took upon himself everything that men and women could throw at him. And yet, he trusted amid this sorrow that the Father would act. The Father would act because God never forgets the righteous!

In this sense, we can return to the troubling passage in Genesis. Abraham is not haggling with God. Rather, God is giving Abraham an opportunity to show his righteousness: his total fidelity to God’s word. Abraham is the one who has hope, who orients himself to the covenant.

So when we talk with God, let us imitate Abraham, who prays not in a servile manner, but as one who knows how God has acted in the past. This righteous God will intervene, save and never abandon the People of God.

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time-July 28, 2019
GN 18:20-32
PS 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
COL 2:12-14
LK 11: 1-13

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Could a proper implementation of synodality help save the Church?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
By: Adam A.J. DeVille Recently, doctors have puzzled over cases of certain Catholics breaking out in hives whenever the words “synod”... Read More

Why is Catholicism vibrant in Africa but not in the U.S.?

Monday, September 16, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion I feel safe in making this statement. Not many American Catholics will be utterly fascinated by Pope Francis’... Read More

Opening the Word: We’re called to seek with the urgency of God

Friday, September 13, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Imagine that you’re on a trip abroad. You arrive at the airport and reach into your bag for your passport, knowing... Read More

Who was Venerable Henriette Delille?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
By: Brian Fraga The last line in Venerable Henriette Delille’s obituary from 1862 sums up her vocation. Henriette Delille, the obituary... Read More

Why I have hope for young priests

Monday, September 9, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion A Catholic asked me if seminaries currently vet candidates for the priesthood so that clergy sex abuse will not be a... Read More

Opening the Word: The cost of dispossession

Friday, September 6, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In the canon of the New Testament, Philemon is strange. It is short, written directly to a prominent Christian whose name... Read More

Symposium calls for renewal of Catholic family life

Wednesday, September 4, 2019
By: Dr. Greg Popcak This past July, more than 40 internationally recognized social scientists, theologians and pastoral ministry professionals... Read More

When is silence not golden?

Monday, September 2, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo We all can use more silence in our lives. We live in a culture bombarded by all kinds of noise and distractions. I should know. My... Read More

Opening the Word: Come to the misfit banquet

Friday, August 30, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley If you’re going to a party, with the right people, then you want to make sure that you fit in. You want to be able to... Read More

Priest starts a Twitter group to break the chains to pornography

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
By: Brian Fraga Not too long after he was ordained on June 1, Father Cassidy Stinson was told by an older priest that if he sees a young person... Read More