There is this overwhelmingly powerful scene in the Fellowship of the Rings in which Galadriel is tempted. Galadriel is already a powerful figure with great magic and power. The ring though would make her even stronger, so powerful in fact she could control the entire realm. She has this amazing line in which she says "I will be great and terrible as the dawn!" We have lost the meaning of that word. We see terrible as something horrendous, horrible, ugly, or bad.
In Abraham's time this was the image of who God was. He was the all powerful Lord, the creator, the judge and the king. For Abraham to stand up for those people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would have taken a great deal of courage. We lose that sometimes when reading the old testament. Here Abraham is facing God and saying, Hey can I change your mind? What if only... over and over. Not only asking God for a boon but also thinking he might be testing God's patience. How scary should that be?
Christ on the cross stood in the gap for us as well. Knowing that not a single righteous man could be found, Christ went in our place to suffer the punishment. All of us deserve what Sodom and Gomorrah got. "The wages of sin is death." None of us can say we haven't sinned either. So here we have Christ, fully God but also fully human... going to the cross in complete trust of God but still aware of His great power and the terrible visage, but also seeing the Father. That was something most of that age were unable to bear, to think of God as Father, and even today there are religions in the world that will find it blasphemous to do so. Christ gave us that gift while nailed and tortured in our place.
I think that's part of the message that God has given us in the Scriptures and through the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To trust in God. To see Him as Father. To know He will only give us what is good. Yet, to remind us that what we do is make a bold claim. That we are approaching the all powerful, omniscient God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That it is an audacious thing to step forward in His presence and say "God give me..." We should never forget though, that we aren't just praying for 'bread', but also for the will of God. So we are saying "God give me... but if you know something better... your will be done." Never forget that last part. Never forget who it is we approach, and what is at stake. Abraham knew what was at stake as He prayed for the people, and his prayer was unanswered... Christ knew death was the cost and He suffered it to save us.... Do you realize what is at stake? Are you ready to pick up your own cross? To stand in the gap for others in prayer? It's a privilege that we should never take for granted.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."
A reflection the readings for Mass on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 24, 2016. Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2:12-14; The Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke 11:1-13