|Saint Cyril of Alexandria|
So Abram said to Lot:
"Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left."
When I was a boy, Mom sometimes set out a piece of cake or pie and allowed us to share it. When there were only two of us, she said one should cut the piece in half and the other should make the first choice. When I did the cutting, you can imagine the care I took to make sure the pie was cut precisely in half! I could not have been more careful with a caliper and balancing scales! Generosity and magnanimity took a backseat to fairness and justice. I wanted as much as I could get!
In today's first reading we hear of Abram's generosity to his nephew Lot. When he offered the young man the first choice, Lot chose the more attractive fertile valley and residence in the city of Sodom. The lad seemed to have a penchant for bad choices.
Abram accepted the high country with steep hills, narrow ridges and thin soil. There he would pasture his sheep, search for water and take refuge from enemies. It was from the hilltop he watched the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, even as Lot and his family scampered back to the hills.
Common sense might suppose that Lot had made the better choice. Why not choose the wider meadows with lush green grass? Hindsight sometimes shows the better choice was the worse.
Abram didn't choose the high country; he chose to give Lot the first choice. He chose to live with the consequences and see how God might work it out.
My reflections are influenced Luke Timothy Johnson's book, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church about the Acts of the Apostles. He shows how the disciples felt the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit after the Ascension in the same way they had known the incarnate Jesus before his crucifixion. Where the Spirit sent them they went. What the Spirit prompted they did. What the Spirit said they repeated.
Doctor Johnson complains against a Church which seems to have lost that compliant, ready obedience. We too often prefer practical common sense. Our budgets should be balanced; our defenses should be strong; our preparations should be in place; nothing should be left to chance.
There's not much room for the Spirit there, and little expectation of Divine Providence.
Even at this early stage of Abram's apprenticeship with God -- his name has not yet been changed to Abraham -- he demonstrates an open-minded readiness to let God demonstrate his Providential Care. It begins with deference to a reckless nephew.