July 21, 2019 • Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm: Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5 (1a)
Second Reading: Colossians 1:24-28
Gospel Acclamation: Cf. Luke 8:15
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
The overarching theme of the readings this week is that God, the Creator of all there is, wants to meet with us, be with us and even live in us for all eternity.
In the First Reading, the Lord is finally going to fulfill His promise of a son to Abraham through Sarah. He himself goes to Abraham in the form of three men, to meet with him and make the announcement at the Oaks of Mamre. Abraham greets them enthusiastically and proves to be a gracious and attentive host, seeing to their comfort and providing a sumptuous meal for them. There is an interesting exchange between them, with Abraham referring to three as “my lord,” in singular fashion and “their” responses are also in the singular. Sarah, in the verses following, laughs at the announcement from within the tent, because she and Abraham are now well beyond the age of childbearing.
The commentary on this passage in the Didache Bible sees this event as a prefiguring of the Annunciation of the angel to Mary, and Sarah as a precursor of Mary, because her conception and pregnancy are accomplished by direct intervention from God, for whom nothing is impossible. It is not totally unlike Mary’s, and both of their sons initiated a new people, the Nation of Israel and the Church. In addition, some of the Fathers of the Church and Eastern iconographers see the three men as a manifestation of the Trinity.
Then, in the Psalm, we find that “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” In other words, God will stay close to someone who is just, truthful and has integrity in his dealings with the people around him.
The Apostle Paul, in the Second Reading, from the Book of Colossians, reveals that the message that he has been called to bring us is so great that it is worth all the suffering he has endured to do so. What is that message?
“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.” – Colossians 1:27b–28 NABRE
God wants to live within us in order to prepare us for glory.
Finally, in the Gospel reading, we see Jesus entering the house of Martha and Mary. Martha, much like Abraham in the First Reading, immediately jumps into high gear to make Jesus comfortable and, probably, prepare a meal. Mary, on the other hand, sits down at His feet in order to listen what He has to say. She offers Him an attentive ear and a receptive soul.
When Martha sees Mary sitting there, she rebukes Jesus for not telling Mary to come help her. Instead of feeling chastened and sending Mary off, Jesus defends Mary and suggests Martha is the one with misplaced priorities. He says, “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.”
Now, many will immediately rush to Martha’s defense upon hearing or reading this story. Many see Martha as representing the active life and Mary as representing the contemplative life. Jesus is not saying that Martha is doing something wrong or that service isn’t necessary or isn’t an expression of love. What He is saying is that all of us need both, and the most important of the two priorities is spending time with Him. And for those of us who have not seen Him but believe, that means prayer. Fortunately, we can also pray without ceasing, in quiet times and in busy times, through availing ourselves of the rich devotional resources of the Catholic Church. We recently had a discussion in our online community about the Jesus Prayer and how it can be used to help us pray without ceasing. Link: http://bit.ly/2JXzTXH .