Genesis 13:2, 5-18
Matthew 7:6, 12-14
The reading from Genesis 13 emphasises the justice and generosity of Abram, who had travelled from his father’s house in Ur, Mesopotamia. To avoid conflict with his kinsman Lot, he offered Lot a choice of destination for his flocks and herds. Lot chose the well-watered Jordan Valley, so Abram remained in the less fertile land of Canaan. Although Abram had generously chosen a less promising terrain for his own descendants, God reaffirmed his promise that they would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. We speak today of the ‘Abrahamic faiths’ of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose members, acknowledging Abraham as their shared father in faith, are indeed as numerous as the dust of the earth. Psalm 15 continues the theme of just dealing. The refrain ‘he who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord’ reminds us of the teaching of the prophet Micah: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6.8) Matthew’s Gospel sums up the virtues of justice, generosity and thoughtfulness in the verse ‘Do to others whatever you would have them do to you’. With an implied allusion to Lot’s choice of the broad plain, associated with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Gospel exhorts us to enter through the narrow gate: justice leads to the fulfilment of life in community, but it may well demand much perseverance and self-sacrifice from us.
Robert Gascoigne is a parishioner at St Brigid’s, Marrickville. He is a theologian who taught for many years at Australian Catholic University.