Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, and there was strife between the herders of Abram's livestock and the herders of Lot's livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land.
Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take he left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left." Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you." So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.
Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks without fault;
he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart;
he who does not slander with his tongue. (R./)
He who does no wrong to his brother,
who casts no slur on his neighbour,
who holds the godless in disdain,
but honours those who fear the Lord.
He who keeps his pledge, come what may;
who takes no interest on a loan
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you."
"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Today's texts manifest the age-old truth that in life people often cope better in pursuing their hopes with effort, than with having too much leisure and too little to do. People who must work hard in developing a business, a farm, or a family inheritance, generally have more joy in their achievement, than the next generation who receive its fruits on a golden platter. We tend to make our worst mistakes when we have the money and the leisure to do so, and even family members turn against each other in the flush of prosperity.
The text from Genesis advises us on a way out of this impasse. Abram's first goal was not wealth, prestige, honour or security, but peace. He said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between your herdsmen and mine, for we are relatives." This peace is marked with dignity and love and the sense of family, leading to the generous and gracious offer: "If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left." Abram shows quiet reflection and good judgment, an approach that illustrates the advice of Jesus, not to toss your pearls before swine, or to follow the wide and easy way to a meaningless existence.
The images of the narrow gate and the hard road suggest that disciples can be demanding. While one can saunter through a wide gate without a second thought, to get through a narrow gate we have to concentrate and focus our attention. It takes a alertness to get through a narrow gate. Being a true follower of Jesus requires alertness and commitment.
The word "narrow" is pejorative in our culture. We like to think of ourselves as broad-minded. No one wants to be considered narrow-minded. But the gospel calls for a certain narrowing of focus in following Christ, excluding some pathways that are easy and well trodden. Saying "yes" to Christ's way requires saying "no" to selfish ways. But any "narrowing down" and self-denial in the following of Jesus ultimately leads to a great expansiveness, a full sharing of God's life. What lies beyond the narrow gate has a length, breath, width and depth which surpasses knowledge.