05 February 2017

Job in Sodom?


Today's readings:
  • Isaiah 58:7-10
  • Psalm 112:4-9 (Responsorial)
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 
  • John 8:12 (Alleluia)
  • Matthew 5:13-16
In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE.

Share thy bread with the hungry, give the poor and the vagrant a welcome to thy house; meet thou the naked, clothe him; from thy own flesh and blood turn not away.
Isaiah 58:7 (Knox)

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah will be familiar to you, if only because you have been exposed to the horror story version or the sexualized version in some movie or TV show. You may also know the Bible Version in Genesis 18 and 19. When the cities were destroyed, God led Lot and his family out of the way of harm. Yet while they were fleeing, Lot’s wife turned around to look back and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Traditional and very conservative Jewish Biblical commentary is filled with reasons God wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: greed, abuse of slaves, injustice, pride; lack of care for the poor that was so extreme you could be punished for feeding the homeless - like in Fort Lauderdale and some twenty other locations in the USA.

The Midrash tells two tales of righteous women who dared extend a helping hand to beggars and were put to death:
Two maidens of Sodom met at the well, where they had both gone to drink and fill up their water jugs. One girl asked her friend, “Why is your face so pale?” Her friend answered, “We have nothing to eat at home, and are dying of starvation.” Her compassionate friend filled her own jug with flour, and exchanged it for her friend’s jug of water. When the Sodomites found out about her act, they burnt her to death.
A second tale:
It was announced in Sodom, “Whoever will give bread to a poor person will be burnt at the stake.” Plotit, the daughter of Lot, who was married to a prominent Sodomite, once saw a poor man who was so hungry that he was unable to stand. She felt sorry for him. From then on, she made sure to pass him every day on her way to the well, and she would feed him some food that she had stashed in her water jug. People wondered how the man managed to live. Upon investigation, they discovered her act and prepared to burn her. Before she died, she turned to G‑d and cried, “Master of the world, carry out justice on my behalf!” Her cries pierced the heavens, and at that moment G‑d said, “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached Me.”
The primary point of the Sodom Story is not the sexual content, it is the moral content. The sex stuff there is to shore up the other points. All humans are created in God's image and God would not have us treat his icons as sex object, political objects, or fiscal objects. If you're going to oppress them for economic gain, you might as well force them into sexual slavery too. God did not tell Lot to flee the Castro or West Hollywood. God was not out to destroy Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Dupont Circle, or Provincetown. God told Lot to flee fin de siecle America. God told Lot to flee the country that Apotheosized into Trump. God said: get straight outta there before I blow the place up - it doesn't matter if he uses fire from heaven, suicidal maniacs on jets, or guns wielded by white folks.

Which is to say, we're screwed.

Unless.

Share thy bread with the hungry, give the poor and the vagrant a welcome to thy house; meet thou the naked, clothe him; from thy own flesh and blood turn not away.

And then...

Sudden as the dawn, the welcome light shall break on thee, in a moment thy health shall find a new spring; divine favour shall lead thee on thy journey, brightness of the Lord’s presence close thy ranks behind. Then the Lord will listen to thee when thou callest on him; cry out, and he will answer, I am here at thy side.Banish from thy midst oppression, and the finger pointed scornfully, and the plotting of harm, spend thyself giving food to the hungry, relieving the afflicted; then shall light spring up for thee in the darkness, and thy dusk shall be noonday

I struggle with this - don't get me wrong. I don't know how to do this yet. However, the morality of it is very straight forward. The Fathers ALL agree on this:

Give your crap away.
You may not have enough.
Give it away.
You may have too much.
Give it away.
And when you do: it changes you and your relationship with God AND the other person.

When you hoard your stuff. When you hide from the poor. When you diss the oppressed, you're not protecting anything: you're acting like Satan. You're being a Sodomite. Your trust is not in God - it's not even in yourself. It's in stuff. You are treating stuff as more important than a human being which means, really, you don't even value yourself as much as that stuff. Give your stuff away.

It goes well with the man who lends in pity, just and merciful in his dealings. Length of days shall leave him still unshaken; men will remember the just for ever. No fear shall he have of evil tidings; on the Lord his hope is fixed unchangeably.
Ps 112:5-7 (111 LXX)

This will not make you popular in Trump's America - or even in Obama's America. We give stuff away here to manipulate others into doing our will, not to be Godlike. Ungodly men are ill content to see it. Vainly they gnash their teeth in envy; worldly hopes must fade and perish. (Psalm 112:10)

There is only one way forward for us Christians. I don't preach to the Gentiles for they don't stand with us even in the best of times save only for their own ends. They agree with President Trump on all aspects: they, too, make up their own morality. They, too, reject the idea of "truth". They, too, object to "being judged". They, too, reject the values of life. They, too, reject the idea of people over stuff. They, too, would turn Syrian refugees into political points - for they didn't care about them very loudly when Obama wasn't letting the Christians in. They only care now that it is a Republican doing it. They didn't care loudly about the war that has cost thousands of American lives before, but suddenly they are out in the streets because they didn't vote for this guy. Morals change. It was ok before, but bad now. They have created Trump: the first post-modern, post-Christian president. He is exactly their president. The Gentiles have won.

There is only one way forward for the Israel of God: the path of "Jesus Christ, and of him as crucified." Our God, the only true and living God, the God for whom and by whom all things were made is the son of an unwed teenage girl, born amid cattle fodder and dung, fleeing the powers of the world, living homeless and preaching a spiritual revolution on the streets of an occupied country, and thus subjected to torture and public execution by the oppressing government.

That is God.

He is our Identity.

It is he whom we serve.

And we recognize him most easily in people who are - like all of us - in his image and likeness; but most especially like him in the world.

Christians have no home. Yet, unlike Lot and his family, before the sky falls, we have a ministry, a duty. We have a job in Sodom.

You are the salt of the earth; if salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it? There is no more to be done with it, but throw it out of doors for men to tread it under foot.
Matthew 5:13

Salt is the flavor needed in everything (including the Super Bowl feast you have there) but there is another use for it and props to Bishop Barron for pointing this out: if you toss it out and trample it underfoot, you're cursing. You're "Salting the Earth". Jesus' listeners would know this: #Carthagodelendaest If you really want to ruin a place, pour salt on the earth and walk all over it: trample it under foot, pack it in. You're making the earth unfruitful, unblessed. When Christians lose our taste we become a curse. We become death to those around us. When we become just like everyone else, we're tearing stuff down without building it up. We're cursing those we should be saving.

So, for God's sake, get out there and be the best kind of salt (fleur de sel). Don't ruin stuff, add flavor (or flavour if that's your thing). Do not, do not, do not let the silly stuff of this world, including the politics of this world, distract you from always looking to Christ and him crucified. Give it all away before it has a chance. Give your passports to foreigners. Sell your stuff on the internet. Lighten up.

And you can't be held down even when they nail you up on the tree.