17th S. 2022: A Sinful City

Today’s homily is for the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God brings justice to those who have been afflicted by the sinfulness of the society in which they live. As the Hebrew people told it, God destroys those cities “because their sin is so grave.” Of course, we know the sin is of a sexual nature–it’s where we get our English word, sodomy, or sodomite. There are many who would like to simply dismiss this example of sin in society, arguing that the Biblical worldview is archaic and no longer applies, but I think this is wrong. And there are those who would like to elevate this example of sin in society, arguing that because it was used as an example here, that it is worse than any other sin that can be committed, but I think this is wrong too. 

This is not a story about homosexuality, as far too many would suggest, this is a story about sodomy, social sin, the effects of sin, God’s justice, God’s judgement, God’s mercy, and the power of prayer. God cares about people–God loves the world and everything in it–and God is always concerned about behavior that is closed to life. 

The Old Testament is said to have 613 commandments–all of them in some way or another a violation of the love that is due to God or neighbor. As Christians we are not bound by those 613–Jesus gave us only one commandment, namely, to love–and we should, but what does that mean about the rest of the commandments found in the Old Testament? While not bound by them, we must ask ourselves, “What is the danger here? What is at stake here? What virtue of value does it seek to uphold?” We are not bound by it, but we must allow all of God’s Word to form us. 

The sin of sodomy is a sinful attitude and concrete action against life. As I’ve said a number of times, God is pro-life, and for all thoughts and actions that encourage and promote life. The flip side of that coin is to be indifferent toward life, or even worse, to be against it–to be pro death. Is it only sodomy that is opposed to life, and are homosexual males that only ones who violate God’s law of life by their actions? Of course not! The story of Sodom and Gomorrah convicts us all. We all violate God’s law when it comes to right living. As St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (ROM 3:23) The church calls us to be pro-life, any many are in many respects, but many of us stand convicted on other life issues: abortion, birth control, masturbation, the death penalty, unjust war, domestic violence, pornography, drug use, gluttony, profanity, anger, human trafficking, gossip, slander, prostitution –all are opposed to life! And each of us stands accused in one way or another. All have sinned.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not a window through which we judge the actions of others–it is a mirror that causes us to reflect upon the degree to which my brokenness and my sinfulness have affected me, my family, my society, and my relationship with God. And we cry out to God in prayer. We repent. With a contrite and humble heart we admit that if God’s justice were to rain down today, we would be in trouble. These Scriptures are God’s reminder to us to repent while we still have time. We are reminded not to judge our fellow man, but to instead remove the beam from our own eye, so as to see more clearly. 

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah cannot be dismissed as archaic. It speaks to the sin that exists in every society–ours too. But we cannot look down our nose and wag our finger as though this is the only sin, or even the gravest. No, it is relevant, it does apply, and we are guilty…but we are also loved by God–even still. God never stops loving us, forgiving us, and working to heal us in the different areas of our life. That is God’s mercy  promised to sinful people who never stop striving. So let’s not judge, but instead reflect, repent, and pray for ourselves and for others.

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