The Biggest Bargain
Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on July 27-28, 2013 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY and Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY
Readings: Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13
My Mom is always in search of that elusive bargain when she goes to the market. She would shop around from stall to stall and haggle with vendors until she got the best discount. She would never pay full price if there was a chance that she could save us a buck or two. Yet, she is not so savings-crazy that she would settle for a knock-off. She knows that, aside from being cheap, a knock-off is also cheaply made. It breaks easily; it does not last that long.
I love bargains just as much as my Mom, but I did not inherit her ease in haggling. I like my transactions to be straightforward: tell me the bottom price, here is my payment, and we are done. My Mom though has that rare nerve that would never back down on the negotiating table; she has the chutzpah that would boldly ask a discount from an unwilling shopkeeper.
The patriarch Abraham had that same chutzpah and he dared to use it with God to get a deal for Sodom and Gomorrah. He haggled with the Lord for the salvation of those doomed towns. He asked that the guilty be spared for the sake of fifty innocents and the Lord delivered to his demand (cf. Gn. 18:24-26). Abraham pleaded for the sake of forty-five, moved down to thirty, continued to twenty, and got it down to ten (cf. Gn. 18: 27-32). The more brazen the patriarch was with his request, the more benevolent the Lord was with His response. God simply could not be outdone in His graciousness. But, what Abraham did not know was that there were hardly ten righteous people left in Sodom and Gomorrah; there were only four: his nephew Lot, Lot’s wife, and their two daughters.
I have often wondered whether the Lord would have spared those doomed cities if Abraham had bargained it down to one soul. I suppose that we will never know because even he did not dare to ask for more. Yet, somehow I think that the Lord would have given Abraham anything that he would have asked for, if not for the sake of their friendship then, at least because of his persistence (cf. Lk. 11:8).
The Lord assures us in the Gospel that we too can dare ask Him for anything, just as Abraham once did. He tells us that we are allowed the chutzpah to ask and we shall receive, to seek and we shall find, to knock and the door will be opened (cf. Lk. 11:8). I know that sometimes we do not always feel that God keeps His end of the deal. Some people simply have given up: they would rather prefer to shop around for something else that would cater to their every desire. What they do not realize is that we unprofitable servants already receive in this Church the biggest bargain that this universe has ever seen: the food of angels is given to us mere men, the banquet of Heaven is laid out for us beggars. If only we let everyone know what we have here, then those crowding this Church on Good Friday would put to shame the mob trying to get into the malls on any Black Friday. After all, if the Eucharist were the real deal, nobody should ever bother to shop around for a knock-off because, as my Mom the expert bargain hunter would remind us, no knock-off is ever worth it.