In order to love one must be free.  Love can neither be forced nor contrived.  For love to be authentic it must be freely given and freely received.  This is love’s dynamic and yet, just as love depends on freedom love, itself, makes us freer.  In John’s first letter we are told that perfect love casts out all fear.  Love creates true freedom.  In this Sunday’s second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians we are reminded of this salvific fact.  Christ, out of love, took on our sinfulness, “obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.” 

In Christ we have been set free but this is not a freedom to do whatever we please.  This is not authentic freedom rather; it is a misuse of freedom.  The freedom we gain from the love of Christ is the freedom to enter more deeply into honest relationship with God and with one another.  This freedom begins in the very knowledge that in Christ we are loved beyond measure – each and every one of us.   

The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were many but at the heart of these sins was the abuse of relationship, particularly the abuse of the visitor, the stranger.  This sin is brought out all the more in contrast to the passage directly preceding that about Sodom and Gomorrah (last Sunday’s readings).  In last Sunday’s passage Abraham welcomes the three visitors, he honors his relationship with them and he treats it as a sacred reality to be respected.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the other hand, do not.  Their sin is great and grave.   

It is easy to judge Sodom and Gomorrah and hold ourselves superior but I wonder if one of the factors of their sinfulness is a factor also present in our own day and time – a life lived in distraction.  John Garvey, in an article he wrote entitled, “A Tree Full of Monkeys: Why the Soul Needs Silence” makes a good observation: 

It takes effort to be clear about the moment we are in.  It requires taking time … We need, through practice, to be made aware of what is wrong about ordinary waking circumstances; it takes effort to do this … it matters, especially in a time when distraction and ideological reinforcement matter more to the culture than sober clarity does.  This inattention disrupts our lives at every level – religious, political, aesthetic … Prayer (silence) can begin to make us feel what is directly underfoot, can help us begin to understand where we really are, in the presence of the sacred… 

A life of distraction, a life of inattention inhibits freedom and therefore hinders growth in true love and honest relationship and (if left unchecked both in lives of individuals and of society) can be a contributing factor in the abuse of others – those who are indeed our brothers and our sisters.  For this we will each have to give an accounting before the judgment seat of God.  To love, one must be free.  A distracted life is not a free life. 
It is worthy to note that in this Sunday’s gospel (Lk. 11:1-13), after our Lord gives us the Our Father, he goes on to further explain prayer by use of three images specifically based in relationship and attentiveness – the attention of one friend to another in need, the willingness to trust in relationship with God and therefore to ask, to seek, to knock and the attentive love of a father to the needs of a child.  Let us not fool ourselves.  Love can easily and sadly be compromised on all levels and in many ways.  The mind can easily become a “tree full of monkeys”.  The soul needs silence and prayer not just for sanity but also to safeguard freedom, honest relationship and attentiveness to the needs of the other. 

The disciples’ request, “teach us to pray” is another way of asking, “teach us how to love.”