A few good men (and women)
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ' Friend, lend me three loves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy spirit to those who ask him?"
Todayís first reading from the Book of Genesis gives us an account of a biblical ďart of the deal.Ē The scene of Abraham bargaining with God carries echoes from our own life when we have sought to negotiate with God. This account carries some important truths for us.
Abrahamís bargaining with God was successful. The city would not be destroyed if 10 good men could be found within its walls. The tragedy is that not even 10 good men could be found there. What difference could 10 good people have made? They could have been witnesses to another way. Every society, every community, every organization needs people who are unwilling to succumb to the ďgroup thinkĒ of the prevailing culture. These are the spiritual and moral marines who are on a mission to transform society.
When people say that everyone cuts corners, they say that they donít. When people say that everyone cheats, they say that they donít. When people say that everyone gossips, they say that they donít. When people say that everyone skips church on Sunday, they say that they donít. When people say that everyone lives together before marriage, they say that they donít.
A few good people are like a speed limit sign. We may be hurtling down a highway at 80 miles an hour. We see a sign that says 70 and we are reminded that we are breaking the law and our speed is dangerous. We may or may not follow the speed limit. But at least we know we are doing wrong.
Every great social movement of our time that has changed society began with a few highly dedicated individuals. Conversely, movements that embody social and moral decline also begin with a few dedicated individuals. Revolutions, conversions, transformations and cultural shifts donít just happen. They begin, grow and spread here on earth. What difference could 10 good people have made in the sinful city of Sodom? A lot. And so can we.
Despite the sinfulness of Sodomís inhabitants, which Abraham surely detested, he still intercedes for them. Our reading shows us the potential of the prayer of intercession. We should be intercessors for the people of our time. Abrahamís persistence teaches us to never give up on anyone. However horrible their sin, however wayward their life, whatever their past, there is still that crack in every personís life through which Godís grace can enter. Even a deathbed conversion is still a conversion.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes intercession as ďcharacteristic of a heart attuned to Godís mercy Ö The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries. It is for all men, for kings, and all who are in high positions, for persecutors and for the salvation of those who reject the GospelĒ (n. 2636).
The prayer of intercession changes our view of others. When we pray for someone who is hostile to us, we start to see him or her less as an enemy and more as a human being in need of grace. We come to see the bully less as someone fearsome but as one of the walking wounded among us in need of healing. St. Paul writes to the Colossians that just as we were raised from the death of sin to new life in Christ, the same can happen to others.
The Lordís call to us to be persistent in prayer keeps us from being changed by society even as our prayer releases invisible streams of grace into our world. Persistence in prayer also entails persistence in the witness of our lives.
Are we willing to be one of the few good men, Christís marines, today?
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