Lot Fleeing from Sodom,
Painted by Benjamin West (1738-1820),
Painted in 1810,
Oil on canvas
© Detroit Institute of Arts
The day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven
Jesus said to the disciples:
'As it was in Noah's day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot's day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.
'When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot's wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.' The disciples interrupted. 'Where, Lord?' they asked. He said, 'Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.'
Reflection on the Painting
Our painting by Benjamin West, executed in 1810, depicts Lot fleeing from Sodom. In our Gospel reading today Jesus refers to what happened with Lot stating 'the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all'. As we can see in our painting, the skies are the main protagonist of the painting, showing fire, lightning, and threatening clouds descending on Sodom. It is only after watching what is going on in the dramatic, destructive background, that our eyes turn to Lot.
The story of Lot is told in Genesis 19:15-26. Having saved Lot and his family from the people of Sodom, the angels instructed him to flee the city with his wife and two daughters. In our painting we see the angels flanking the three of them. As Lot lingered, one angel took his hand. They were told not to look back. However, Lot's wife disobeyed (she is placed at the centre of the painting) and upon looking back she was turned into a pillar of salt.
So why does Jesus refer to Lot in our Gospel reading today? There may be many answers to this question, but as I was looking at the figure of Lot's wife in our painting, maybe the answer may lie with her. Lot's wife was immobilised because she could not leave the past behind her. Rather than move forward and leave the past behind, she wanted to look back and reminisce. It prevented her from stepping into to a new future. Are we the same, looking back too often at our past, which may render us immobile too and prevent us from joyfully moving ahead to a new future?
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Readings related to Luke 17:26-37
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