Ordinary Time
Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week

“As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Come on! Take your wife with you and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” (Genesis 19:15)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“When the angels who were sent to destroy Sodom desired to expedite the task with which they were charged, they first had concern for their host, Lot, that, in consideration of his hospitality, they might deliver him from the destruction of the imminent fire.

Hear these words, you who close your houses to strangers; hear these words, you who avoid a guest as an enemy. Lot was living in Sodom. We do not read of other good deeds of his. The hospitality alone occurring at that time is mentioned. He escapes the flames, he escapes the conflagration for this reason alone: because he opened his house to strangers. Angels entered the hospitable house; fire entered the houses closed to strangers.

Let us therefore see what the angels say to their host on account of his services of hospitality. “Save your life in the mountain,” the text says, “lest perchance you be included.” Lot was indeed hospitable. And, as the Scripture has borne testimony to him, he was hidden from destruction when the angels had been hospitably received. But he was not so perfect that immediately on departing from Sodom, he could ascend the mountain; for it belongs to the perfect to say, “I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, whence help shall come to me.” He therefore was neither such that he should perish among the inhabitants of Sodom, nor was he so great that he could dwell with Abraham in the heights. For if he had been such, Abraham would never have said to him, “If you go to the right, I will go to the left, or if you go to the left I will go to the right,” nor would the dwellings of Sodom have pleased him. He was therefore somewhere in the middle between the perfect and the doomed. And knowing that it is not appropriate with his strength to ascend the mountain, he piously and humbly excuses himself saying, “I cannot be saved on the mountain, but, behold, this city is small. Here I shall be saved; and it is not small?” To be sure, when he entered the small city of Zoar he is saved in it. And after this he went up into the mountain with his daughters.

For there was no possibility of ascending from Sodom into the mountain, although it is written of the land of Sodom before it was overthrown, in that time when Lot chose it as his dwelling place, that “it was as the paradise of God and as the land of Egypt.” And yet, to digress slightly, what similarity does there appear to be with the paradise of God and the land of Egypt that Sodom should be compared fittingly with these? Now I think it is in this way: before Sodom sinned, when it still preserved the simplicity of the unstained life, it was “as the paradise of God,” but when it began to be discolored and to be darkened with the stains of sins it became “as the land of Egypt.”

But since indeed the prophet says, “Your sister Sodom shall be restored to her ancient state,” we inquire also whether her restoration also recovers this, that she be “as the paradise of God” or only “as the land of Egypt.” I, at least, doubt if the sins of Sodom can be diminished to such an extent and its evils purged to the point that its restoration be so great that it be compared not only with the land of Egypt but also with the paradise of God. Those, however, who wish to establish this will press us especially from that word that appears added to this counterpromise. For the Scripture did not say “Sodom will be restored,” and stop, but it says, “Sodom will be restored to its ancient state.” And they will assert strongly that its ancient state was not “as the land of Egypt” but “as the paradise of God.” (Homilies on Genesis, 5)

O God,
Who through the grace of adoption
chose us to be children of light,
grant, we pray,
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen
to stand in the bright light of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen