Gn 18:16-33; Ps 103:1-11; Mt 8:18-22
The Lord pardons, heals, redeems, crowns; He is slow to anger, merciful, gracious, abounding in kindness. Psalm 103 can’t find enough words to express the surpassing kindness of our God; yet, the Lord has plans to destroy the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. Where is the kindness of the Lord as he goes down to see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them? Psalm 103 announces with great joy that the Lord is slow to anger, yet, the Lord Jesus has gives no break to those who want to fulfill the law and bury the dead. Has the Lord Jesus lost his patience with the details of hospitality? The Psalm, which is supposed to be a response to the first reading, seems to contradict both the first reading and the gospel reading. Perhaps, the mystery of the Lord’s kindness and mercy are hidden in the readings and only fully revealed in the “breaking of the Bread.”
After sharing in the table bounty of Abraham and Sarah, the Lord walks with Abraham toward Sodom. The hospitality of this older couple is in sharp contrast to what the Lord has in mind. It is this painful contrast that seems to give rise to the Lord taking Abraham in his confidence. He debates within himself, and ultimately He decides to talk it over with this blessed man in whom the nations are to find a blessing. The Lord is hospitable toward Abraham since he realizes that his nephew, Lot, lives within this wicked city. Abraham’s concern for Lot and his family drive this divine/human dialogue, and it takes on the age-old question: “will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?” In every generation we ask the Lord this question, and here at the beginning of the Bible we have a model conversation between God and man. Such a divine/human encounter gives us permission to bring our concerns about justice to the ultimate Judge of the whole universe. Abraham remains respectful and courteous with the Lord yet, he does not hold back. We, too, presume to speak honestly with the Lord about those things that don’t make sense in our lives and in our world. Often times, it is simply the hospitality of the Lord that gives us the greatest comfort, even when we don’t receive the answers we want or demand. Even when we must continue to struggle with the mystery of suffering, we can take comfort in the Lord’s hospitality for us and our concerns. Perhaps, this is the kindness and mercy we need the most.
However, where is all this divine/human hospitality in the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples? Indeed, does the Lord Jesus not chide the scribe who approaches with such enthusiasm? Rather, is not the Lord Jesus being honest with this infatuated scribe? If you want to follow me, you must be ready to live like those who have nothing in this world. There is no place to rest your head except where the Beloved Disciple rested. Indeed, is the Lord Jesus not impatient with the disciple who must first go and bury his father? Again, is not the Lord is being totally honest with this disciple? If you want to follow me, you must be urgent about the Kingdom of God. There is nothing more demanding than this urgency. Everyone else must take care of the details of life in this world; there is only one thing that matters for the disciples of the Son of Man. We learn about this one thing here as we share the divine hospitality of the Eucharist.