Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meditates on the power of Prayer, the Incarnation and Abraham

I stumbled on this particular chapter of Pope Benedict's School of Prayer. It was such a beautiful meditation on intercessory prayer and the reason for the Incarnation, that I edited it, and post it to our blog. A wonderful read for the end of the Christmas season. Please note the "all caps" are my addition.
~ Michele Coldiron for Creative Catholic Works

From "A School of Prayer", Pope Benedict XVI, 2011
Abraham's Intercession for Sodom (Gen 18:16-33)

Abraham, the patriarch, the father of all believers (cf. Rom 4:11-12, 16-17), will offer us an example of prayer in the episode of intercession for ... Sodom and Gomorrah.

It is recounted [Gen 18] that the evil of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached such heights of depravity so as to require an intervention of God ...  It is here that Abraham comes in, with his prayer of intercession. God decides to reveal to him what is about to happen ... And now this friend of God, seeing the reality ... prays . . .

"Will you indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are 50 righteous within the city; will you destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous?" ... It is right to condemn its crime ... but ... innocent people ... must not be treated as the guilty. 

However, if we read the text more attentively, we realize that ABRAHAM'S REQUEST IS EVEN MORE PRESSING AND MORE PROFOUND BECAUSE HE DOES NOT STOP AT ASKING FOR SALVATION FOR THE INNOCENT. ABRAHAM ASKS FOR SALVATION FOR THE WHOLE CITY and does so by appealing to God's justice ... In this way he brings a NEW IDEA OF JUSTICE into play: not the one that is limited to punishing the guilty, as men do, but a different, divine justice that seeks goodness and creates it through forgiveness that transforms the sinner, converts and saves him ... 

[God's] prayer of intercession begins to reach the abysses of divine mercy. Abraham—as we remember—gradually decreases the number of innocent people necessary for salvation: . . . "suppose forty ...thirty ...twenty ...are found there" (cf v 29-32). The smaller the number there, the greater God's mercy is shown to be. 

Thus, through Abraham's intercession, Sodom can be saved if there are only ten innocent people in it. THIS IS THE POWER OF PRAYER. For through intercession, ... the desire for salvation which God nourishes for sinful man is ... expressed. Evil, in fact, cannot be accepted; it must be identified and destroyed ...

However, not even ten good people were to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah, so the cities were destroyed [in Jewish tradition 10 is the minimum community needed] ... It is not punishment ... but ... a transformation from within ... 

Yet God's mercy in the history of his people extends further . . . the prophet Jeremiah was to say ... that one upright person was necessary to save Jerusalem (5:1) ... nonetheless this did not suffice ... and ... Jerusalem fell. IT WAS NECESSARY FOR GOD HIMSELF TO BECOME THAT ONE RIGHTEOUS PERSON. And this is the MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION: to guarantee a just person, he himself became man. There will always be one righteous person ... [T]he Son of God became man, the definitive Righteous One, the Perfect Innocent who would bring salvation ... by dying on the Cross ... Therefore, the PRAYER OF EACH ONE OF US [OF US] WILL FIND ITS ANSWER; therefore our EVERY INTERCESSION WILL BE FULLY HEARD 

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