17th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 28, 2019
One of the things that has always frustrated me about working in education is how quickly grades gain a reputation.
Oh, that class is an awesome group of kids. You’ll love them.
That class is a tough one. Watch out for them.
This group is really smart. They are a breeze to teach.
That group never really worked hard. Such a shame. All that lost potential.
And yet, one thing I have noticed over my years teaching is how unhelpful the labels are.
For they never capture the complexity contained in any given class.
For in every class I have ever taught, I have met brilliant students. Gifted athletes. Natural performers.
In every class I have taught, I have met students who really struggle. Who dislike school. Who push the envelope.
In every class, I have met kids who have experienced some tremendous trauma. Who come to school desperately holding together the fragments of a fractured life.
And in every class, I have met kids who have changed my life for the better.
Maybe that is why I have never met a class I didn’t ultimately fall in love with.
For when you begin to get to know individuals and their stories, it is hard to not fall in love with them as a group.
Maybe that is why I have always loved this fascinating interchange in our first reading.
For in the time of Abraham, the concept of the individual was completely irrelevant when compared to the group.
Groups defined you.
Your tribe. Your clan. Your ethnic nation.
They were who you are.
So it was completely reasonable that an entire city would be held responsible for the crimes of some of its members. That was the way of the world.
And yet, that is not what happens in this story.
Instead, we see Abraham volleying back and forth with God on behalf of individuals who were not part of his groups. They were different. They were other. And yet, he argued on their behalf.
And in this exchange, Abraham comes to understand that this God that he follows and loves is concerned about each and every individual just as God cares for him.
My friends, this is the great reminder of the readings for this weekend.
Which is that each and every person is God’s unique and beloved.
The individual choices.
The unique constellation of cultures and life experiences that define each of us for who we are.
God sees it all. God knows it all.
And God loves each of us for exactly who we are.
Each life is a unique reflection of the divine image in the world. And the world is forever changed by each life that graces the planet.
This is ultimately why we baptize.
To announce to the world that the world has once again changed.
For a new daughter. A new son has come to incarnate God’s love anew among us.
So as we go forth into the world, may we do so as individuals uniquely chosen, loved and sent forth.
So that in each person that we meet, we may acknowledge the divine that burns just as brightly within them.
Gripping their hand and laboring to build the kingdom of God together.
May God be Praised.