In this weekend’s Liturgy we read the account in Genesis of Abraham’s bargaining with God for the preservation of Sodom, out of love for his kinsman, Lot. I have enjoyed reading, hearing and proclaiming this Scripture reading countless times, since I’ve been serving as a lector in my home parish since March 1974, when I was a junior at Marymount Manhattan College.
As always, my reaction is “Just gotta love Abraham!” Although it would be centuries before JESUS, our Messiah, Savior and LORD, true God and true Man, would come to repair the breach between God and human beings and the veil of the temple that represented God as too holy and unapproachable for us to encounter one-on-one would be torn in two, Abraham’s dialogue with the LORD represents the kind of intimacy and confidence with which the LORD desires us to approach the Throne of Grace to receive mercy and favor in time of need—in needs both big and small—in EVERYTHING! The transcendent God is also immanent, and He desires to walk with us every step of the way.
If you will notice, Abraham is confident, but he is not casual. God is not his “buddy” or “the man upstairs”. There is no doubt that Abraham has not forgotten Who God is and who he is (and we are). God is the LORD of the universe, while we are but dust and ashes. God is Creator. Abraham is (and we are) creature. And still Abraham can speak with Him in his own language, can appeal to Him in his own words, can be fully himself, and can understand that the LORD is a patient listener Who is kind, understanding and compassionate, and even has a sense of humor! So Abraham’s dialogue with God and his concern, his intercession on behalf of those he loves, and even his bargaining can be a model of how we can confidently (while never disrespectfully, irreverently or casually) come to God with everything—and even more so now that we have our Savior’s own Word for it that God is our Father and we are His beloved children.
I love to read the dialogue: it would make a great one act play! Although out of respect for the sacred text and sacred Liturgy I refrain from imitating a Jewish accent, I do proclaim it somewhat as I imagine it to me. As I was listening to the lector proclaim it at this evening’s Mass I could imagine that it could be not unlike one of the memorable scenes of Tevye addressing God in the wonderful musical play FIDDLER ON THE ROOF performed by MAGGIE’S LITLE THEATRE in St. Margaret’s parish last Sunday with a marvelous cast, particularly the actor who made us believe that he WAS Tevye. And perhaps the responses from God could have come from a voice that resembled Charlton Heston of Biblical epic movie fame.
I perceive Abraham, our father in faith and the father of the Jewish people as the first Jewish lawyer, and Jewish people have excelled in the law profession ever since! The ability to negotiate seems to be a charism generously bestowed by God on the Jewish people from the very beginning!
Abraham, the first Jewish lawyer, the father of the Jewish people (including “Tevye”), and our father in faith, is a wonderful model for us all in His approach to God in this passage. Ultimately his greatest descendant (in terms of his human origins to which St. Paul refers in his letter to the Romans), would become the greatest Mediator of all Who still serves as Mediator for us at His Father’s throne. For don’t forget that in His human origins, JESUS CHRIST, LORD of heaven and earth, Who came to save all of the human race, Jew and Gentile alike, my LORD and Savior, is Jewish. After all, as Tevye would say, that’s what “the Good Book says”.
May the words of my lips (and pen and computer) and the meditation of my heart find favor with You, my LORD and Redeemer. Thank you for allowing us to approach Your throne with confidence and naturalness, as we truly are, to receive mercy and grace in all our needs and the needs of those You have placed upon our hearts. AMEN.
(c) Copyright 2013 by Arlene B. Muller, OSF.