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Abraham Knocked on God's Heart, Says Pontiff. Turns to Scripture for Catechesis on Prayer

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today turned to sacred Scripture for his catechesis series on prayer, illustrating how Abraham's intercession to save the city of Sodom was a knocking "on the door of God's heart."

The Pope gave his third catechesis in the new Wednesday audience series, saying that while he looks at the biblical teaching on prayer, he hopes it will lead the faithful to know the Bible better.

Turning to Genesis, he considered the well-known passage in which Abraham asks God how many faithful would be needed in Sodom in order to avoid its destruction.

"Abraham puts before God the need to avoid a summary justice: if the city is culpable, it is right to condemn its offense and inflict punishment, but -- affirms the great Patriarch -- it would be unjust to punish in an indiscriminate way all the inhabitants," the Holy Father explained. "If there are innocents in the city, they cannot be treated as the guilty. God, who is a just judge, cannot act like that, says Abraham rightly to God."

But then the Pontiff went deeper into the text, saying that a more attentive reading reveals that "Abraham's request is even more serious and more profound, because he does not limit himself to ask for the salvation of the innocent."

"Abraham's thought," he explained, "which seems almost paradoxical, can be synthesized thus: obviously the innocent cannot be treated as the guilty, this would be unjust; instead, it is necessary to treat the guilty as the innocent, putting into act a 'superior' justice, offering them a possibility of salvation, because if the evildoers accept God's forgiveness and confess their fault letting themselves be saved, they will no longer continue to do evil, they will also become righteous, without any further need to be punished."


With such a prayer, the Pope said, "Abraham does not ask of God something that is contrary to his essence; he knocks on the door of God's heart, knowing his real will."

"Thus, by the intercession of Abraham, Sodom can be saved if in it are found just ten innocent," he continued. "This is the power of prayer. Because manifested and expressed through intercession, prayer to God for the salvation of others is the desire of salvation that God always harbors for sinful man."

Unfortunately, Benedict XVI observed, not even the minimum "germ of goodness" was found, and Sodom was destroyed. Similarly, the Pope illustrated, the Prophet Jeremiah was unable to find even one righteous person in Jerusalem, and the city fell to its enemies.

"It will be necessary for God himself to become that righteous one," the Pope reflected. "And this is the mystery of the Incarnation: to guarantee a righteous one, he himself becomes man. There will always be a righteous one because he is."

"The infinite and amazing divine love will be fully manifested when the Son of God becomes man, the definitive Righteous One, the perfect Innocent One, who will bring salvation to the whole world by dying on the cross, forgiving and interceding for those who 'know not what they do' (Luke 23:34)," the Holy Father said. "Then the prayer of every man will find its answer, then every intercession of ours will be fully heard."