Life & Soul

A God who does not remain hidden

Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

The 17th Sunday of the Year
Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13 (Year C)

“The Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin!’”

The Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their ultimate fate, has ensured that these cities have become synonymous with the darkest evils of the human heart. Beyond the question of what might, or might not, have occurred within these cities, is the question of Abraham’s pleading with the Lord concerning their fate. “Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are 50 just men in the town. Will you not spare the place for the 50 just men in it?”

At first sight it might appear unseemly that Abraham should have questioned the Lord’s intentions for Sodom and Gomorrah. The unfolding of Abraham’s pleading with the Lord is best understood against the graciousness that preceded it. “Now the Lord had wondered, ‘Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do, seeing that Abraham will become a great nation with all the nations of the earth blessing themselves by him?’”

Underlying this dialogue is a God who does not remain hidden, but who chooses to reveal himself, initiating a life-giving relationship. It is with such a God that we are enabled to voice our doubts and fears, our hopes and longings. In such an exchange, embraced by God, we begin to understand ourselves in the light of his grace. This dialogue, initiated with Abraham, would come to its most perfect expression in the Word made Flesh and dwelling among us.

Thus the Gospels are centred on the prayer of Jesus. “Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ ”

From their frequent observation of Jesus at prayer, the disciples instinctively understood that all they had experienced with Jesus, his every word and deed, flowed from his relationship with the Father. They longed to experience and live that same relationship. Therefore Jesus instructed them to come into the presence of God, not as distant suppliants, but as those already loved by the Father.

Thus, using the familial “Abba”, they were to address him as Father. They were to pray “May your name be held holy, your kingdom come.” Such a prayer expresses a longing to share the heart and mind of God, and for our lives to become an expression of that longing.

Through the Holy Spirit, may such a longing become the beginning and ending of our every prayer.