To Pray and to Work

07-17-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Clearly there is a lot of rushing about and frantic activity in today’s linked Mass readings, the Old Testament and the Gospel. Abram (Abraham) appears to be frantic in his dashing about. When he spies the three distant figures, he comes out of his tent right away. It does not take long before he is gushing at the three men and offering them his most generous hospitality. As a host he wants his new guests to stay for quite a while. He also gives orders to Sarai (Sarah) about the baking of bread and in addition he then orders his servants to get busy for the guests. Notice how it is that it is that Abram waits personally on these three. The three guests ask about Sarai, and there is one who seems to be able to sense on a higher level more than the others. He knows Sarai wishes for a child and he then promises her a child before the year has come to an end.

These visitors are absolutely mysterious in various ways. Their arrival seems to reflect the informal way we learn in the Old Testament that God comes and goes. We learn of God’s coming and going in the first book of the Bible. In some ways the guests also seem to reflect the angelic presence often found in the Jewish scriptures. The Letter to Hebrews makes reference to this where it is written “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” These three mysterious visitors received wonderful hospitality and gifts from Abram and Sarai. With their new names of Abraham and Sarah, the couple received the special gift of a promise of a child despite the logic that a child was not possible.

The Gospel story also tells of a visitor and two hosts, Martha and Mary. Martha is caught up with the details of the visit and the cooking. It seems that Jesus wants Martha to slow down or stop because she has lost the correct focus of the visit. She forgot that it is a visit and talk with Jesus. Martha and Mary are the two extremes of hospitality, too busy with the details and neglecting the guest or too busy with the guest and neglecting the basic details of hospitality.

This balancing is found in the Benedictine quote ora et labora which means to pray and to work. The quote actually applies to all of us. Some folks are overly devotional in terms of church and prayer. Some folks are overly committed to doing works of charity. There needs to be a balance. When we need to connect intimately with our God in church, especially at Sunday Mass and pray to Him daily, we also need to make sure we are actively involved in caring for others. It is simple: we need to go to Mass each week, say our prayers daily and make sure that we help others in need every single week.