Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Gn 18:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: 15:2-5
Second reading: Col 1:24-28
Gospel: Lk 10:38-42
By Kevin Perrotta | Catholic News Service
In our first reading, God appears to Abraham in the form of three men traveling past his tent. Abraham invites them to stay for a meal, and they accept. When the travelers have dined, one of them announces to Abraham that within a year his wife Sarah will bear a son.
This strange incident raises many questions, one of which is simply: Why did God repeat himself? He had already made the promise of a child to Abraham (in the preceding chapter). Since Abraham was almost 100 years old and Sarah close to 90, Abraham had laughed. (How would you respond?) Did God now want to make sure that Abraham took his promise seriously? Maybe.
But perhaps, having alerted Abraham to this miraculous conception, God wanted to communicate with Sarah too. The means to the miraculous outcome were going to be entirely ordinary, so she would need to be on board with this undertaking.
Working within the limitations of cultural protocols, according to which the woman of the house would not sit down to a meal with male visitors, God does not speak with Sarah but repeats the promise to Abraham, knowing that she will be near enough to the tent to hear what he says.
As the story continues (beyond today’s reading), Sarah reacts the same way her husband did. She laughs — and this leads into a conversation directly between her and the divine Guest.
There seems to be even more than sensitivity to Sarah in God’s visit. He could have continued to communicate in the mysterious manner he used from the beginning to the end of his dealings with Abraham. We read statements such as, “The Lord said to Abraham …” God’s words came to Abraham, but God himself remained hidden.
Yet this time, God went out of his way to be with Abraham and Sarah. In the matter of promising a child, God wanted to get close and personal with them. He made himself knowable and accessible as a traveler whose need for refreshment they could fill.
God was intent on a plan for humanity that was much greater than Abraham and Sarah grasped. But the elderly couple were important to him not only for the part in the plan that he wanted them to play. God had a longing to be with them.
Indeed, God longs to be with each one of us.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.