Last week in the Mass readings, St Paul pointed to Jesus as a model of generosity: "Though he was rich, he made himself poor, so that you might become rich." (Scholars say that it is typical of Paul to draw our attention to Jesus as a model for our choices.) In today's first reading, from the book of Genesis, it is Abraham who anticipated (or, we could say, "imitated" in anticipation) that same self-emptying generosity.
Seeing the quarrels between his own shepherds and those of his nephew Lot (yes, that Lot) as they made their way through the Promised Land (the very title refers to God's promises to Abraham), the patriarch realized that the extended family would have to split up. There was no way they could live off the same land: between the people and the flocks, the combined households were just too big. And even though Abram was the senior, he did not pick out the finest spot for himself and let Lot take the leftovers. He "made himself poor" in a way, by giving Lot first pick of the territory. Lot went off in the direction of ill-fated Sodom, which was at the time "like a well-watered garden." Abraham took his tents and his herds and went off along the "strait and narrow way" toward Canaan.
I see Abraham in this story as a person of great interior freedom. He had heard God's promise of lands and descendants, and his faith was so firm that "he did not grasp at" the immediate and obvious fulfillment of at least one of those promises. Instead, he left that fulfillment completely in God's hands.
That's a real challenge for me. I tend to be like the airplane traveler who has to be reminded that "the closest exit may be behind you," out of my range of vision, but real and concrete and available. In the light of today's Gospel, it is this "narrow gate" that leads to life.