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 angy if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." And when he had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord went his way, and Abraham returned to his place.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings. (R./)
It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion. (R./)
The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
His wrath will come to an end;
he will not be angry for ever. (R./)
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him. (R./)
When Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
Abraham tried bargaining with God to have the wicked cities spared. He begins with a quorum of fifty: Can the cities be spared if fifty innocent people are found there? When God agrees, Abraham tries again: suppose that only forty-five are found innocent. This haggling prayer continues until he gets down to ten. At that point God ends the conversation. This haggling prayer is a classic that reveals two aspects of Israel’s faith: their freedom to argue with God and God’s patience to listen to them. The story shows the closeness between the compassionate God and his people. But finally they yield to God’s wisdom and sovereignty.
On hearing the harsh Gospel statement "Let the dead bury their dead", we might want to argue as Abraham did. Like him, we feel that justice and decency are on our side. How can the dead bury their dead? When Jesus himself died on Calvary, his friends took care of his burial. The phrase, Let the dead bury their dead is a figure of speech to emphasise the urgency of following God’s call when it comes.
Even if we still want to argue, we trust that God always wants to give healing and life.
When people were crowding around Jesus, an educated man came to him, saying that he wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went. Who wouldn’t want to be in the company of this celebrated healer who generated such popularity? We can sense the scribe’s enthusiasm in his forthright request. In response, Jesus was equally forthright in describing what following him could mean. It would be an insecure, austere lifestyle, for ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ The would-be follower needed to know that there were darker days ahead, under the shadow of the cross.
Many want to follow Christ who in good times can fall away from him when times get hard. Sometimes everything seems well, but later things fall apart. We need to trust the Lord in dark times as well as in sunshine and light. Like the promise a couple makes on the day of the marriage, we need to give ourselves to him ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives.’ He asks us to be faithful, regardless of our shifting circumstances, and trust he will be faithful to us.