Sunday Sermon for July 28, 2013, the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

A few weeks ago we had the reading from Genesis, today’s first reading, at daily Mass. After Mass people commented that they were expecting me to blast away at what is happening in our country and around the world. While these decisions to allow persons of the same sex to “marry” or to adopt children are reprehensible and will cause untold problems for the future, I decided to take a different approach to the readings. I will do the same today.

As Catholics we need to follow the teaching and example of our Lord. He was most merciful when it came to sinners, regardless of the type or seriousness of the sin in which they were involved. The only exception to this was with regard to those who considered themselves righteous due to their practice of their religion. This being the case, we have to be merciful to others if we want out Lord to be merciful to us.

I have heard it said countless times that if the Lord does not do something pretty soon, He owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah. To think that God has to apologize for doing or not doing something is ridiculous in and of itself. But the logic these people employ is equally foolish. When we look at the first reading, and if you read the paragraphs that precede it, it becomes clear that every male in the town was involved in these most unfortunate of actions against nature itself.

Abraham speaks with the Angel of the Lord and brings the number down to five, that is, if there were even five innocent people in the town, God would not destroy it. Now, we are told in Genesis only about the men who were pounding on Lot’s door, but Abraham did not ask only about the men. The Angel said that if there were five innocent people in the town he would not destroy it. This means that the women must have been involved in some pretty debased activities as well.

Anyway, when we look around America, or the world in general, we will note that there are still many, many faithful people. Even if the number of people who go to Mass and confession are way down from where they used to be, I would maintain that it is better to have a smaller but more fervent Church that and to have a Church with a larger number of apathetic people. If we take the five people from the discussion about Sodom and expand that worldwide, we have many more than the requisite number to keep the world from being destroyed at this time.

This also means that for those who are part of this smaller and more fervent group of people there is a greater responsibility to live the faith to which we fervently adhere. We must condemn the sins that rage around us, but we must be compassionate to the souls who commit them. There is not a single person reading this article who could have thrown the first stone at St. Mary Magdalene because none of us is without sin. Our Lord told us that the measure with which we measure will be used to measure us. Are we being merciful or stringent in our measurements? Remember, this is about the sinner, not the sin.

In the Gospel our Lord teaches the Pater Noster, with the point of forgiveness being central. We even pray condemnation on ourselves if we fail to forgive others. That forgiveness flows from the Cross, as St. Paul makes clear in the second reading. Every one of us has been a recipient of God’s mercy. What if He would have destroyed the world when we were in the state of mortal sin? We would have been lost. Thanks be to God for His mercy! Now that we have received mercy, we need to extend that to others.

St. Peter says that God’s patience is directed toward salvation. The Lord is greatly offended by the gross and disgusting things to which people are giving themselves over. But as offended as He is by their actions, He still wants their conversion, their repentance and their salvation. The Lord loves these sinners just as much as He loves the one looking at me when I look in the mirror.

When we consider our own sins, we need to realize that we cannot condemn anyone else. Recall the point St. Augustine made 1600 years ago: be it not for the grace of God, that would be me. Overcoming our sins and their affects is how we will become Saints; it is no different for these people. Thankfully God is our Judge; He, not we, is their Judge as well. Our task is to pray for their conversion and to practice mercy.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit