July 23, 2010

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionAgain, the Book of Genesis is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

It is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The point is not where these cities actually were situated in the Middle East or what catastrophe befell them. Rather, it is a story about the destructive process of sin and of God rescuing us from this destruction.

This is the divine revelation given to us in Genesis.

This reading features Abraham, regarded as the father of the Hebrew race. It does not end there, and this is a major note in the story. God is with Abraham and literally is conversing with Abraham.

The topic is the vice in the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God, the just, insists that this vice will result in a divine retribution on the people of these cities.

Abraham pleads instead for divine mercy. The conversation can be taken as a bargaining process. Abraham asks that the hurdle be lowered. God agrees. Then Abraham asks for a further lowering. Again, God agrees.

In the process of relating this story, two important points emerge as powerful lessons.

Humans create their own doom. It stands to reason. Look at the despair that war brings upon affected populations. Look at the heartbreak that sin brings upon people.

Abraham realizes the deadly effects of human decisions, such as people’s decisions leading to immorality in these cities. Nevertheless, he asks God for mercy. But beyond mercy, he asks God for life.

The second point of the story is that God hears Abraham and extends his divine mercy to the people.

For its next reading, the Church once more this month presents a reading from the St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians.

The Christians of Colossae were no different from other Christians in the Roman Empire’s Mediterranean world in the first century A.D. To them, the Christian faith was new. In the face of such an overwhelming pagan culture, following this faith was indeed a challenge.

Encouraging the people, St. Paul reminds the Colossian Christians that in Christ they had died to the culture and to their own instincts. Baptism drowned their sins and weakness before the pressures of their surroundings and of their nature. In baptism, they died but also rose to life in Christ with its eternity and strength.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies us with the last reading.

It is the beautiful revelation of the Lord’s Prayer. No prayer has been more beloved by Christians, now and throughout Christian history. Each verse is powerfully and profoundly expressive.

The first verse is especially telling, setting the stage for all the others. Jesus tells the disciples to address God as “Father,” not as a king, ruler, judge or creator. It establishes the believer’s relationship with God.

The second part of the reading also is very reassuring. Jesus insists that God’s door is never closed. God always hears the appeals of the people.

Loving people with an infinite love, God will give them life. He even gives life to sinners if they repent and lovingly turn to God.


The reading from Genesis and the reading from Luke’s Gospel call us to approach God in full confidence that our pleas will be heard. It is particularly comforting when we turn to God in repentance for our sins. If we reject our sins, and instead turn to God, our sins will be forgiven.

It is all a beautiful thought, but the Christians of Colossae give us evidence, as if we need any, that our instincts and all the negative cultural influences around us can be very difficult to overcome.

Nevertheless, we can overcome sin and all that brings sin into our lives. If we are sincere as believers, Christ is in us with strength, insight and power. He is God. He will show us the way. He will sustain us. He will save us. He is true life. He will always keep us safe. †

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