Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mary Has Chosen The Better Part, And It Will Not Be Taken From Her.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Genesis 18:1-10a
The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre,
as he sat in the entrance of his tent,
while the day was growing hot.
Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.
When he saw them,
he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them;
and bowing to the ground, he said:
"Sir, if I may ask you this favor,
please do not go on past your servant.
Let some water be brought,
that you may bathe your feet,
and then rest yourselves under the tree.
Now that you have come this close to your servant,
let me bring you a little food,
that you may refresh yourselves;
and afterward you may go on your way."
The men replied, "Very well, do as you have said."

Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah,
"Quick, three measures of fine flour!
Knead it and make rolls."
He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer,
and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.
Then Abraham got some curds and milk,
as well as the steer that had been prepared,
and set these before the three men;
and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

They asked Abraham, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
He replied, "There in the tent."
One of them said,
"I will surely return to you about this time next year,
and Sarah will then have a son."
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 15
He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
One who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
One who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
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Reading II
Colossians 1:24-28
Brothers and sisters:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I am filling up
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
on behalf of his body, which is the church,
of which I am a minister
in accordance with God's stewardship given to me
to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.
But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom 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 and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Luke 10:38-42
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious
and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."
As today’s First Reading begins, we find Abraham sitting in front of his tent, basking in the shade of the turpentine trees. He looks up, and sees three men approaching. He runs up to them, and offers them hospitality: “Come, let me send for water, so that you can bathe your feet. And let me bring you something to eat. Then, you can continue the journey that has brought you here.” The strangers accept the invitation, and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, prepares a magnificent banquet: meat from a choice steer, curds and whey, and rolls made from fine flour are set before the strangers, and Abraham waits on them until they’ve had their fill.

The strangers ask, “Where is Sarah, your wife?” “She’s there, in the tent.” One of the strangers says, “I’ll be coming back next year about the same time, and by then, Sarah will have a son.” The reading ends there, but the story isn’t really complete without the next verse: Sarah laughed to herself and said, “I’m well past the age of childbearing, and my husband is old.” But a year later, Sarah gives birth to a son and now, according to the Hebrew scholars, her laughter fills and blesses the whole world. The moral of the story: Nothing is impossible with God.

There is another wonderful story in today’s Gospel, which follows last Sunday’s parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus and his disciples continue on their journey and come to the town of Bethany, where a woman named Martha welcomes them to her home. She has a sister named Mary, who sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to what he is saying. Martha, to put it mildly, is not pleased, since she has many tasks to perform getting dinner ready. So she comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, don’t you care that this sister of mine is leaving me by myself to get on with all the work? Tell her to come and lend a hand!” But Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha! You are fussing and fretting about many things, but few things are necessary or rather, one alone. Mary has chosen the better part, and it won’t be taken away from her.”

Jesus knows from his own experience the basic human needs to which Martha was responding with traditional hospitality. But, he was also aware of a deeper hunger, one that food, drink and shelter cannot satisfy. This is the human need for interpersonal relationship, the hunger to be involved in genuine communication with another person. This desire is satisfied to some degree in friendship, but ultimately, the quest for interpersonal relationship is ultimately fulfilled only by communication that becomes communion: an intimate relationship between a human person and the Creator: friendship with God. The English mystic, Julian of Norwich, expresses the same truth: “By nature, our will wants God, and the good will of God wants us. We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess Him in fullness and joy. Saint Augustine prayed: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Is it any wonder that Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part”?

How can we understand and try to achieve the complementary relationship that must exist in our own life, between Martha’s generous hospitality in preparing food for Jesus, and Mary’s longing for personal relationship with him as she sat at his feet paying heed to his every word? The answer: Follow the example of Jesus. He fed the hungry, cured the sick, exorcised evil spirits, even raised the dead, all as expression of his love for his Father’s children, His sisters and brothers. In other words, our love of God must become incarnate in whatever we do to meet the needs of our neighbor. I cannot truly love God with all my heart, and mind and might, unless I love my neighbor as myself. And, who is my neighbor? My neighbor is everyone who is not myself. 

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