Gen. 18:01 – 15 – Abraham’s Visitors
Need for Notification
I learned from the group that if I expect them to respond to my posts, I need to notify them when I actually post. For those who would like to be notified, I will need your email address. We are working on how to set up an automatic notification process.
In an effort to follow up on the challenge of the New Evangelization I observed that one of the ironies of Vat. II concerns Catholic tradition; a tradition which extends back for nearly two thousand years. Much of what emerged from Vat. II was actually the recovering of a much earlier tradition of the Catholic Church. One example, the notion of collegiality was part of the the Catholic experience long before the present centralization and dominance of the papal office and the curia. But for the vast majority of Catholic, their sense is the exact opposite. The only Catholic tradition they know is the present one in which the Pope and the Roman curia play such a dominant role. So collegiality is viewed as “new” and the present status of pope and centralized operations is viewed as “traditional.” Recovering our whole past is part of Rising To The Level of Our Times.
I suggested that a first step in the New Evangelization can be something as simple as telling our story. It is in the concrete events that make up our story that the story of God’s grace, call, forgiveness actually occurs. Our stories are important because they are our stories. But they also are important because they are not unique to us as individuals. If we hear, read the account of others we will discover God is at work in others and those others are part of a community of believers.
It will help if you read the notes, http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/18 which point out that this passage is part of a story that continues through chapter 19 and is linked with that story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the first verse of this passage the narrator lets us [the listener / reader] know that the Lord [Yahweh / God] has appeared to Abraham. But in the next verse, Abraham recognizes three men standing nearby. Ultimately one of the three, the Lord [Yahweh / God] speaks. It isn’t until chap. 19: 01 that we learn the other two “men” are angels / messengers. [And the word “angel” conveys a quite different meaning to us than it did to the first listeners to this story. For us, angels did battle before the heavens and earth were created. Michael won and Lucifer lost. Lucifer became the devil, Satan who job is to get us to sin and go to hell. We all have guardian angels. None of these concepts existed for the people who first heard this story told.] It’s not clear if or when Abraham and Sarah recognize that the Lord has appeared to them.
The passage can be divided into two sections, the first one, v. 2 – 8, is concerned with the value and importance of hospitality to the stranger [the very opposite of what will occur in the town of Sodom.] Pay attention to how much Abraham does, the haste in which he does it, the concern for the strangers. The next section, v. 9 – 15, concerns the announcement of a child, [Isaac, one who laughs – notice the play on words in the passage] and how it is that Sarah reacts to it. Will she show hospitality to the words of the stranger?
- First who are the characters and what role does each play? [It seems relatively easy to name the characters but much more difficult to articulate what their role in the passage is. Yet it is their role that makes the story, as Faryl pointed out in our session, unfold, develop. The characters are the story in some fundamental way.]
- With regard to the “when” question, I continue to ask that we focus on the “when” of our life. It was in this question, for example, that we learned Michael’s “when” began about five years ago. He started a journey that took him back to school and will make a major turn starting his new career with a full time position this Monday, October 22.
- The plot is content of the third question; how does the story unfold, what is the narrator of the story reacting to in his times, what does he want those people to come away with.
- What values are revealed in the story? What is our emotional reaction to them? Should we embrace these values, develop them even further, or reject them? And what our reasons for evaluating the passage in our way?
Before we read though, let’s quiet ourselves, remember whatever we can from the background, our questions and, most importantly, pay attention to what happens inside of us as we read.
Reading of the passage http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/18.
A Couple of Discussion Points
It took some effort to recognize that “hospitality” was the central theme of the first section; although it was quite clear to Kai. I was fascinated as I listened to the different members of the group recall their grandparents, for the most part, extending hospitality to strangers. And Carol’s remembrance of their house being marked so the “strangers,” the hungry, the homeless, knew where they would be welcomed and get a good meal.
The image of “hospitality” that is presented is both a value to be lived by us and developed by us. For our times are different. I can’t help but recognize that it is the very notion of hospitality that makes St. Anthony All Saints attractive to so many. And extending that hospitality to members of other ethnic groups is not without its concrete challenges. Being hospitable to ones family and friends is one thing, but to the stranger, persons who are different, well that’s another matter.
Ken remarked in response to the second section some similarity to the announcement of the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist. I’m not sure I heard Ken well because I responded to the need to hear the story in terms of its symbolic meaning. The story tells of God promising to a couple near one hundred years old that they will have a son by this time next year. But what is really going on is that we often experience what feels like impossible situations and to believe seems laughable, to others even foolish. But the story reveals that there is more going on in our life than we are immediately aware of; that belief changes the meaning of what is happening and invites us out of that changed meaning to live differently.
Our discussions covered many other areas but sufficient for today is the day’s stories.
The New Evangelization is learning how to tell the biblical / Christian story in a credible way in the modern world. What of this passage invites a change in the very meaning of our life personally, communally, socially, historically? Keep in mind that the answer to that question must be concrete, otherwise it really isn’t the story of Sarah. For in the story she did become pregnant, Issac was born. And from Abraham, came Issac; from Issac, Jacob; from Jacob, Israel; and Jesus, us . . . Three thousand years of a presence, pressing forward