July 21, 2019 Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

What a delightful story from the book of Genesis today; so simple and yet so profound! Abraham is sitting at the entrance of his tent; it’s hot, the hottest part of the day.

He looks up and sees three men standing nearby.

In America we would expect him to give a casual greeting to the visitors, “Good morning”, but check out Abraham’s reaction: As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed to the ground.

With great warmth and irresistible delicacy Abraham welcomes his visitors and begs them to stay. He minimizes the trouble they will cause him and offers a little water and a little bread but then goes off to prepare loaves, meat, milk and cream – he has the bread freshly baked and chooses a calf which is fine and tender.

Abraham’s excitement as well as his eagerness to serve his guests is clearly evident. He hastened to find Sarah and told her to hurry and make loaves. Then running to the cattle he chose a calf and the servant hurried to prepare it.

Food in hand he now goes to the three men and spreads all before them. While they eat Abraham remains standing, a sign of respect as well as of readiness to spring into action should they need something more.

For all the hurrying and running there is never a sense of ‘breathlessness’ in this account. Abraham remains peaceful and in control, whether he is doing the serving or standing by as his guests dine. It is clear that Abraham considers all that he does as a welcoming of the three visitors, as an expression of his hospitality.

Two little remarks: first we know that God came to visit Abraham, and second: God came as Three.

Now it is Martha and Mary who receive a visit from the Lord, this time in the person of Jesus. Martha welcomes him and gets busy with the serving; Mary sits down by his feet and just listens to him speaking. It’s not long before Martha comes to the Lord, distracted and annoyed.

Perhaps you will share with me my long held conviction that one of the things disastrously wrong with us is our activism; it’s everywhere in the world and everywhere in the Church. Martha was obviously an activist and she shares the fate of all activists, she became distracted and angry.

How many of us, thinking that being a Catholic is a series of things to do rather than a person to become, follow down the same path and soon stop attending Mass? At any rate, Martha approaches, or perhaps more exactly, reproaches Jesus.

This lesson is consolidated in the Gospel…. Its also a beautiful passage, but, it is also a very misunderstood passage.. it can be quite confusing…. It may be helpful to keep in mind that Jesus is very good friends with both Mary and Martha. He is not rebuking Martha….But he is gently teaching her that, although he deeply appreciates and values her hospitality and welcome.. and the meal she is rushing to prepare….In the end… these important actions are a foretaste and a symbol of the true hospitality and welcome that comes from sitting at the feet of the Lord and listening to him… learning from him… becoming a disciple of Christ and being utterly open and responsive to God’s word and God’s teachings…. And this is what Mary is doing …. And it is not to be taken from her…..

Unlike many of-heard interpretations of this gospel….. Jesus is not preferring action to contemplation….. and is not rejecting Martha’s ways and accepting only Mary’s ways…… Jesus is not “contrasting a strictly contemplative life with the active life. Both are necessary. Jesus rather shows us two sides of a coin both are necessary. There are two sides of discipleship there should be a balance between prayer and meditation and action in our lives. We venerate Martha as a saint as well as Mary. The one thing necessary is to listen to Jesus and to ponder his words deeply. Without his values and his Spirit and good news, our activity could be misguided and even harmful. We need, (and our homes need, and our world needs) the saving message, values, and Spirit of Jesus. We need to listen and be open to this.

First and foremost we get close to Jesus we contemplate his words and from the relationship with our Lord we take strength and commitment to serve others.

As we all know Jesus did not come to earth to solve all the social problems, heal all the sick or feed all the hungry, his mission was to bring the Kingdom of God to Humanity.if misfortune , hunger or sickness was an obstacle on the way to receive God’s Kingdom, Jesus would solve it by miracle. The signs that the kingdom of God is present among us are visible to others through our actions, how we treat each other because of love of God in our hearts.

The world is made up of Marthas and Marys – doers and dreamers – and the former are much more numerous than the latter. The commercial society of today places a huge premium on achievement. It is tangible results that count. Production and sales targets are set for and only those who meet them are rewarded. Captains of industry insist that pay be related to production.

Both action and contemplation are needed in the life of a Christian….But both need to be firmly based on openness and responsiveness to Jesus’ teachings and values and message….

As we have said already….Action without contemplation could be fruitless and quite misguided …. A waste of effort…… and contemplation without actions could be just self-indulgence.  Both are needed in their own order… with first priority given to sitting at Christ’s feet and listening to him and learning from him.. This story is not teaching that one should not serve a meal to our guests. Jesus is saying that more important than feeding them is enjoying their company and loving them. We should never be so busy that we have no time for conversation

This encounter suggests a theology of contemplation, how to receive the Lord’s visit. It starts from the basis that whoever our visitors may be, there is always something to be learned from them. The one who comes knocking on our door will have something to tell us, should be listened to and understood.