Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.” So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.
Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said,
“Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s Genesis narrative can seem like Abraham is playing the Let’s Make a Deal game show with God. While couched in respectful language, Abraham’s step by step negotiation with God seems demanding and even pushy. Yet he also appeals to all that we trust in God’s generous forgiveness and abundant mercy. God “rewards” Abraham for his own persistence.
God also answers Abraham because he is asking for all of these things on behalf of people he doesn’t know – strangers and aliens – sinners and saints — the good, the bad and the ugly as it were. Abraham actually risks his own relationship with God on behalf of these strangers. Abraham places the needs of others before his own. His up-front love and forgiveness for these others even seems to surpass God’s own.
It is said that a teacher’s greatest success comes when her student’s success and achievement vastly exceeds that of her own teacher. Abraham is considered the patriarch of three great world religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – because he exemplifies the greatest hopes of believers in our relationship with God. Abraham shows us how to converse personally with God, to respect God in friendship, and even how to risk offending God on behalf of our neighbors: those whom we know and like; those whom we don’t like; and yes, even those we don’t want to know.
Do I pray for the needs of other people, and seek myself to generously serve and care for others?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus
Lord, all that we have comes from you. What do you want me to share with those closet to me and with those that are not known to me by name? Let me be generous in my gift of time, through the resources that bless my life. Let me commit to sharing from my wallet, my closets, the hours in my day. We believe that in serving another we serve you, Lord. Thank you for the gift of joy that comes with such abundance when generosity guides our actions.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!