Reflection for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle C

Christ with Martha and Mary. Unknown painters

FIRST READING        Genesis 18:1-10a

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak 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.”

SECOND READING             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.

GOSPEL            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.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  —  often these words are used to justify the contemplative life, but actually they are not about that at all or at least not directly.  Instead, Jesus is inviting all of us to choose the better part:  Listen to Him and don’t get so caught up in doing everything else!

The first reading today is from the Book of Genesis and is about hospitality and how God works in us when we receive others.  This scene became famous in the icon of Rublev, and became of symbol of the Holy Trinity.  We Christians should always be aware that whenever we receive anyone, we receive Christ Himself.  We are happy to do that when the one we receive is not a problem!  But when a guest becomes a problem, we have a real challenge to recognize Christ present.

Abraham and Sarah received these three strangers.  For their goodness in receiving strangers, finally Sarah has a son, a true gift of God.  Abraham is our father in faith, Sarah our mother—and their son, Isaac, continues the line of those chosen for God in a special way.  Yet each of us is also chosen to give witness to our faith in God, no matter what happens.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Colossians.  Here it is clear that there is another aspect to hospitality, to receiving others, and that aspect is to accept the sufferings that come to us because in that way we fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  That is truly a strong statement!  Yet, if we listen carefully to Scripture, we recognize this truth:  we are one in Christ Jesus:  it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.

The Gospel of Luke today brings us back to the account of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.  Martha is frustrated because Mary sits and listens to Jesus while she, Martha, has to do all the work.  We can wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to the Lord?  That is the invitation to each of us:  stop your business and be still and listen!

So all three readings today bring us back to God and the incredibly wonderful ways in which God is present in our normal daily life.  God comes as stranger, God comes as Guest, God comes in suffering and God comes in being still and listening.  Let us be attentive!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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1 Response to Reflection for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle C

  1. Robert John Bennett says:

    Mary’s words are “often” used to “justify” the contemplative life?

    I think there is a solid and ancient tradition in the Church that Christ’s words indicate more than that. They show how much He values the contemplative life.

    “We can wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to the Lord.”

    Is Christ really indicating Martha should do that? Or is he suggesting that Martha ought to understand that both she and Mary are doing the right thing, but that what Mary is doing is “the better part.”

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