Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
As I reflect on the texts before us today, I am struck by the simple yet powerful wisdom God offers us for living well with one another. If only we all could follow that wisdom. Our world would be utterly transformed.
Take the wisdom of Abram’s response to his difficulties with Lot. Abram is well aware that relations between him and Lot are strained to the breaking point. Their herds have grown quite large and are getting in each other’s way, and, given that, it’s not surprising that their herdsmen are getting on each other’s nerves as well. Under such circumstances, it’s easy to imagine Abram coming to the conclusion, reminiscent of a scene from a classic American western, that “This town just ain’t big enough for the two of us.” But rather than challenge Lot to a duel at high noon that would likely end in one man’s violent death, Abram offers up a very different solution—and one that carries the promise of peace instead of bloodshed.
Abram’s solution is for the two men and all their animals, herdsmen, and tents to go their separate ways. But, amazingly, rather than issue some edict—“Lot, you go left, and I’ll go right”—Abram invites Lot to decide which way he wants to go. Lot considers the two options and picks the land that he thinks is better. And Abram contentedly takes what Lot has rejected. That is incredible. Abram knows that far more important than his own material advantage is peace between himself and his neighbor.
How often have we chosen our material advantage over true peace with our neighbor? And how often have we (and will we) pay for having done so? Abram did the far wiser thing. If only we could learn from him.
And then from the Psalms we get clear wisdom like this: people who will live in the presence of the Lord don’t harm someone else, walk blamelessly, work for justice, refuse to take up reproach of their neighbor, take no bribe against the innocent, and don’t charge interest when lending money. Yes, people who live like that sound like just the sort of people the Lord would celebrate. Are we that sort of people?
Finally, from the Gospel comes that rule that we’ve all known since we were in elementary school (if not earlier): do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Whenever we are wondering how to follow Jesus or what Jesus wants us to do all we have to do is turn the table. Instead of asking what we want to do we are to ask what we would want done to us. And to answer that question, we have to step into the other’s shoes. We have to inhabit their place in the world, their life circumstance, their worries. And we have to ask ourselves—if I were hungry, if my child were ill and could not get medical treatment because I didn’t have health insurance, if I were fleeing violence in my home country, if my house had been rendered uninhabitable by a tornado, what would I want others to do unto me? That’s the test for following Jesus.
Lord, there are times when we read your Word and are left scratching our heads (even after we’ve consulted a commentary). And then there are times like today when your Word is so clear. May we embrace the profound and transformative challenge to live into your Word. And in that way may we do some good for our neighbor. Amen.
- Sue Trollinger