There’s a lot of laughter around the conception of Isaac…some of it is subtle, and some of it is falling-on-the-floor-laughter laughing.
In yesterday’s reading, Abraham falls down laughing when God yet again promises him a son through Sarah. And if you think about it, you could see why that would be very funny.
For years God has been telling Abraham that he will make a great nation of him, that his descendants will be like the sands of the sea, as numerous as the stars of the heavens, that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed thru his descendants.
And nothing happens.
Abe has no children. He just keeps getting older. God keeps making these great promises, and Abraham continues childless. And now Abraham is 100 years old, Sarah is 90 years old, and God brings up the promise again. So, no wonder Abraham falls down laughing!
God speaks only truth
God doesn’t seem to mind Abraham’s laughter. Maybe God is enjoying the joke, too. It may be funny, may sound crazy, but it’s going to happen.
Then one day—out of the blue—three mysterious strangers come to visit Abraham, and he runs to wait on them.
Abraham doesn’t just casually meet the needs of these strangers. No. Instead, he runs to wait on them hand and foot. He shows himself to be a kind of King of Hospitality.
And after serving the strangers and conversation—out of the blue—here comes the promise again…
His promises are true, always
These three strangers tell Abraham he will have a son by this time next year.
But this time, in this situation, Abraham doesn’t laugh—maybe he’s too polite to laugh, it would seem rude to these strangers. Instead, his wife, Sarah, laughs!
You see, Sarah has been in her tent listening, and when she hears the promise, she can’t contain herself. She laughs. She doesn’t fall down laughing, it’s a more a kind of sarcastic laugh, with her hand over mouth.
The strangers hear her laughing, and mention it. Sarah responds, denying that she laughed. But the strangers know the truth and they counter, saying: You did too laugh!
In fact, the strangers use this beautiful expression: Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Sometimes translated: “Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to to do?”
Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?
Maybe that’s the question we are meant to take away from the story—is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?
Perhaps enjoy the humor of God’s providence, but continually remember that nothing is impossible for God.
When Isaac is finally born, Sarah is no longer sarcastic. Now she is overflowing with happiness.
With the birth of her son, Sarah says: “God has made me laugh for joy, everyone who hears this will laugh with me.” No wonder Isaac’s parents named their son “one who laughs” (also translated “one who rejoices”).
Fr. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B., is a monk of the New Camaldoli Hermitage (Immaculate Heart Hermitage) in Big Sur, CA, and the prayerful chaplain of Catholic Business Journal. Learn about the hermitage at Contemplation.com