by Father Mike Stubbs
Throughout my life, I have lived in many different places. I grew up in the small town of Bonner Springs, just outside of Kansas City. I studied at KU in Lawrence for three years, one year in France, then four years in Rome as a seminarian. I spent one summer in London, where I worked at a parish.
As a priest, I have served both in country and city parishes. These experiences have taught me that the pace of life can vary greatly, according to the location. In the city, life tends to rush by. On the other hand, in the country and in small towns, life moves very slowly.
Out in the desert where Abraham and Sarah were living as nomads, dwelling in tents, life must have been moving at a snail’s pace. We hear it described in Sunday’s first reading, Gn 18:1-10a. When three strangers appear in this isolated spot, Abraham is eager to welcome them as guests. He throws himself into the necessary preparations.
Accordingly, he hastens to tell Sarah: “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.” Anyone who has ever made bread can attest to the fact that it is a process which takes a considerable amount of time. Besides the bread, Abraham picks out a steer from the herd, has it slaughtered, butchered and roasted.
Once again, this process would have taken a long time. It was not like visiting the local McDonald’s to pick up
a few hamburgers. But the reading assures us that the servant “quickly prepared it.” Clearly, the reading’s assessment of “quick” differs from that of our Western, largely urban culture. Abraham and Sarah move at a different pace. They view time in a different perspective.
While visiting Abraham, the three strangers predict that Sarah will bear a son within the year. This prediction prompts laughter, since both Sarah and Abraham are elderly. The prediction disregards their advanced age. But this is appropriate, since it originates from God, who sees things from the perspective of eternity: “A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday” (Ps 90:4). To God, Abraham’s and Sarah’s advanced age is nothing. There is no need to take it into account.
The disparity between God’s perspective and our human approach to time far exceeds the difference between the laid-back lifestyle of the desert dweller and the rush of the city. It is the difference between now and eternity: “As high as the heav- ens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Is 55:9).