Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr

(Genesis 19:15-29; Matthew 8:23-27)

It may seem like the lesson of Sodom is one of disgust with homosexual behavior. Remembering the context of the story, we realize that the angels warn Lot to flee the city before God annihilates it out of outrage from the townsmen’s attempt to violate Lot’s guests. But as often happens in Genesis, the wisdom is more profound than what first meets the eye.

When the three strangers visited Abraham in the country, he welcomed them like kings. He gave them water to refresh their skin and a feast to recover inner forces. Now in the city of Sodom, Lot similarly treats two of the same travelers, but his neighbors threaten them. Indeed, the men of Sodom move to rape the travelers as apparently is their custom. Lot in a rather foolish effort to protect his guests offers the men his virgin daughters, but the Sodomites spurn the women.

The men of Sodom, like those of Babel earlier in Genesis, demonstrate the corruption of city-life. City dwellers collaborate to advance their knowledge, but in their progress they leave a righteous way of life. Their learning makes them consider themselves as independent of God’s authority. Not feeling accountable to anyone, they try to take advantage of the defenseless. Their quest for ever more adventure leads the men of Sodom to despise women in favor of other men. There is no antidote for such barbarity. God must destroy them completely. Although it is a hard lesson, city dwellers must develop a righteous fear of God to temper their advancement in knowledge.