Several years ago, I overheard a gentleman say to his traveling partner, “we have arrived in Sodom and Gomorrah.” I was a bit taken aback as I had thought we had landed in Los Angeles, California. They were traveling on to Hawaii, and I guess before they traveled on to paradise, they had to wait with the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah. 😊
I always remember that comment every time I hear those ancient cities mentioned. My Logics teacher would have labeled that the presumed fallacy of hasty generalization. You may remember the story about Abraham who could not find even 10 innocent people in either city. (Genesis 18: 22FF). I know of many wonderful and holy people who live here and that was most definitely not an accurate statement. We must be careful not to overlook the holy.
In today’s Gospel, we might ask, what did Jesus wish to convey to us? These simple four verses we are presented with today have been labeled in Biblical commentaries “the consequences of rejection” as we begin to learn of the opposition which Jesus will get from Israel and his community. In short, Jesus was rejected by his native home of Capernaum, and we hear “woes” on the lips of Jesus. The cities of Tyre and Sidon were frequently denounced by the prophets for their corruption. Here, Jesus quotes Isaiah (14:12:20), and includes Capernaum. These few verses of Jesus can make us a little uncomfortable. It is good to take a pause out, recognize the discomfort, and allow the scripture to inform you. Verses like the ones that follow soon after these can bring calmness to me.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Vs. 28-29
In our first reading from the beginning of Exodus, we hear about the story of Moses and how his mother managed to save him from the Egyptian Pharoah. Scholars have compared this story to earlier stories of Egyptian Gods. The ancient Biblical writers took what sounded good and incorporated it into the beginning of Exodus. This is a motif employed by the ancient writers, they borrowed several stories, especially the Genesis creation story. Through these stories, they incorporated God at work and involved in their lives. To us, it may make it sound a bit questionable however, to the ancients it reflected how they considered God to be active in their lives.
Their intimate faith reached far beyond their current situation and gave inspiration to their understanding of their creator God. They were able to navigate their lives and find hope. The Psalm used in today’s readings adds further:
“Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.” (69)
When I reflect on these readings, I can find myself confident in being among the “sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah” and trust in God’s providence in my life. How about you?
May we be nourished by the Word of God this day. May we live out our faith in confidence regardless of where we live. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.