The Difference between Prayer and a Soliloquy

There aren’t too many comical passages in the Bible, but two of today’s readings qualify in my book. The first reading from Genesis and the gospel passage from Luke can be pretty funny if you picture what’s going on in them. 

In the first reading, Abraham is falling all over himself and his wife Sara to serve a trio of mysterious visitors a meal. By the way the reading begins, we can only assume that these men are the Holy Trinity, since the passage begins, “The Lord appeared to Abraham,” and then just a few words later, it has Abraham looking up and seeing three men. Abraham must have believed there was something special about these visitors, since he and his wife scrambled to serve up a steak dinner—with rolls yet—to feed these gentlemen. It must have been pretty good, too, because God left them a generous tip—a voucher for a baby boy, redeemable in a year. 

In the gospel we have another instance of someone serving the Lord a meal. This time it’s Martha, and she was also pretty frantic about putting on an impressive spread for her guest. She wasn’t getting much help from her sister Mary, though, who was busy listening to Jesus. He must have been saying something pretty important, because when Martha interrupts to complain about not getting much help from her sister, you can picture Jesus rolling his eyes to the skies (and this time not in prayer) as he says “Martha, will you cool it and listen to me a second??” (My translation.) 

The theme of these two readings is how we interact with God. In the first reading, Abraham and Sarah genuinely want to please and praise God. Their service to him is an elaborate prayer and God receives it as such. In the Gospel, Martha seems absorbed in putting on a show and doesn’t hear a word of what Jesus was saying. When we pray to God, do we insert space for him to reply? Prayer is divine communication, but it is communication all the same—meaning a two-way street. Listen to what Paul tells the Colossians in the second reading: “God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” 

Christ in you, you in Christ—true harmony. That’s hard to pull off when you’re busy producing a solo act.

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