16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Hospitality and Listening to the Word.”
The first reading and the Gospel are both linked by the theme of hospitality. The ever-ready and gratuitous hospitality is the symbol of all forms of service to our neighbour. The attention and kind generosity shown by Abraham towards the three visitors are a good example.
St Paul is a model of service to his followers. Few people were capable of loving like him, because few are those who have been close to the Word of God. This is the teaching from the second reading.
The account of Martha and Mary in the Gospel stresses instead that every service, even service to Christ, cannot be separated from listening to the Word.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Abraham was not just held as the ‘father in the faith and obedience to God’, but was also brought as an example of genuine and courteous hospitality because of today’s first reading. Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent, taking a rest during the hottest part of the day when, raising his eyes, he saw three men standing near him. In these three, Abraham instinctively recognizes the ‘God’ he has been following since he had left his homeland. How does Abraham know it is God? The Trinity has not as yet been conceived as a way of representing the true nature of God. However Abraham knows that they represent God, he knows what to do when God comes calling.
He hurried towards them, sent for water to refresh their feet and made them sit under a tree. He hurried back into the tent looking for Sarah and told her to prepare and make some loaves. He then himself ran to the herd and chose the best calf and gave it to the servant who hurried to prepare it. When everything was ready he offered his guests curds, milk and the calf that had been prepared, and while they ate he remained in attendance standing beside them under the tree. You would have noticed how at the start Abraham is comfortably seated while his guests were standing; but at the end the roles have been inverted: the three men are now sitting down comfortably for their meal, while the house owner and host is standing, ready to serve them, ready to see every sign of theirs and to fulfil their wishes. The attitude of Abraham is educational, instructive and stimulating for us.
In the imagery of Genesis, the Lord God walks and talks and eats with his chosen ones. By depicting God in human form the writer shows us in a simple way the truth about Almighty God – how He is involved in the life and struggle of his people. When we move to the Gospel reading and see Jesus visiting people and talking with them, we see that this is not imagery but the truth. Are we as quick to see and to respond, and as generous as Abraham in our response, when God come calling on us?
What stand do we take with the brothers and sisters who need our help: do we sit back in comfort or do we spring up, willing to respond to their needs and ready to serve them? Abraham was too good a man to expect a reward for his generosity, but God did not let him go without one. God was pleased with the hospitality of Abraham and to show his satisfaction, granted Abraham what he had most wanted in life: a child, a son. Who gave and who received most? Are we constantly aware that under the semblance of a poor person, God is asking us for hospitality, just as he had asked Abraham on that particular day under the ‘Oaks of Mamre’?
The Psalm lists the qualities that are needed for a person to feel at home in the presence of God in the Temple. Such a description fits Abraham well. In this entrance liturgy to the Temple, the priest reminds the pilgrims of the conditions necessary for admission to the sanctuary. The conditions are of a moral and social nature relating to one’s neighbour.
In the text today Paul is telling us that in spite of all his sufferings he feels quite happy because he knows that he has dedicated his life to the cause of the Gospel. Christ has continued his work in him and through him, making himself present among the men and women of that time and offering them his love.
In prison Paul is forced into inactivity, by looking back at his past life, he can see that he spent it well: he has announced to the pagans the mystery hidden away for centuries and generations and now has revealed this to the Christians. What remains for him to do is to instruct all in order to make everyone perfect in Christ.
In our communities we have apostles as generous as Paul. They are those who spare no energy and are not frightened by any difficulty or privation in order to announce the Gospel. We are indeed blessed by their tireless efforts.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem. Tradition has it that the home of Martha and Mary was in Bethany, just three and a half kilometres from Jerusalem. Luke is not so much interested in a physical journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, but rather in the spiritual journey of Jesus and his disciples.
This short account gives much more room to Martha’s effort to warmly welcome Jesus and his disciples in their house. She is so busy with the serving, worried and troubled to the point of wanting Mary to help her. She feels she has to do a lot of things to please Jesus. But there is something frantic about Martha in her kitchen activities. She is not at peace but somehow distracted and being pulled or dragged from all sides. Part of her would also love to sit at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and listen to him. Martha remains divided by different desires and is ‘worried and troubled’ about many things.
When we get involved in many worthwhile activities, we too can get anxious and worried about what we are doing and what our immediate priorities should be. Jesus warns his disciples and us many times not to get worried and anxious (Lk. 12:22, 25-26, 21:34). Jesus wants us to learn from Mary the art of attentive listening.
Mary’s activity is mentioned in a few words. She is totally absorbed by only one activity: that is listening to Jesus. She does not do any of the things Martha is doing because she has found great joy sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his words. Listening to the ‘Word of God’ is for Luke one of the basic attitudes of the Christian. Mary’s attitude enables us to have a fuller picture of what is expected of the disciples of Jesus.
Mary’s approach to ‘listening’ reminds us of so many other Gospel texts: The parable of the sower (Lk. 84-8) which ends with Jesus inviting his hearers ‘to listen’. The parable was later interpreted to illustrate the different ways people ‘listen to the Word of God and receive it’ (Lk. 8:11-18). Jesus defines as his true family all who ‘hear the Word and live by it’ (Lk. 8:21). The first part of the journey to Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51-14:35) has been focused on the hardship of discipleship and ends with the invitation to ‘listen’ (Lk. 14:35).
As fully mature disciples of Jesus we imitate both the ‘Good Samaritan’ in his practical love and Mary sitting at the feet of the Master. The ‘Word of God’ must lead us to action to change the world around us. Without the Bible and Prayer our actions are not inspired by God. Without positive action our sharing and praying becomes empty, lost and hypocritical.
Mary and Martha are sometimes opposed to each other. Martha is given as the example of the ‘active life’ and Mary the example of ‘prayer, or contemplative life’. It may seem that the two types of life are exclusive, and that Jesus prefers the contemplative to the active life because he defends Mary’s attitude.
However, opposing the two sisters is to miss the point. Both of them really express their love and openness to the Kingdom through different ways. Martha expresses her love through service, something every community needs. Mary expresses her love in the attitude of an attentive disciple. Our communities need both charisms to function properly.
‘Service to others’ is important, but so is the ‘Word’, studying and sharing the Bible, Praying and Celebrating the Sacraments together. It is best, of course, not to have to choose. But if the choice has to be made, ‘presence’ is always the better part.
It is important also to be able to receive by allowing others the opportunity to be givers. Sometimes giving and doing, even for good purposes can become compulsions. We end up gratifying our own needs under the guise of serving others. It made Martha very negative, complaining that the Lord does not care and griping that her sister will not help.
‘We lose the balance of our souls if we are generous givers but mean receivers. We need to be generous to ourselves in order to receive the love that surrounds us’.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … There are times in our lives that we will meet representatives of God through the contact of complete strangers; we will instinctively know that these people act for God. God is involved in the lives and struggles of his people. Are we alert and quick to see into these encounters and to respond?
Mon. … The Lord wants to walk, talk and dine with those he loves. It is up to us to react to the Lord’s presence in a way that is keeping with who and what he is. Abraham did so when he respectfully offered every detail of courtesy and care to his guests and Mary responded when she sat listening attentively to Jesus as he spoke.
Tues. … God offers hospitality to us as well. The readings of today are meant to be proclaimed at the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is nothing less than God offering hospitality to us, having us to supper, calling us to enjoy his company and giving us a preview of what is in store for us when we enjoy the eternal hospitality in heaven.
Wed. … Paul in the second reading assures the Colossians and us that he rejoices “in my sufferings for your sake”. Paul sees his sufferings for others as a top priority. How do we see suffering for others, as an inconvenience, or a necessary task in ‘Carrying our Cross’ or something to rejoice in?
Thurs. … As followers of Jesus we must imitate both the ‘Good Samaritan’ in his action of charity and love and practice the art of attentive listening to the Word of God in order to change the world around us. Without the ‘Bible and Prayer’ our actions are not gratuitous and inspired by God.
Frid. … Like the two sisters ‘Mary and Martha’ we too can express our love and openness to the Kingdom in many different ways. Some of us may find it easier to serve through tasks of ‘Love and Charity’ and others by bringing the ‘Word of God’ and the Eucharist to those who are sick and want to sit and listen at the feet our Lord. Our communities need both ‘charisms’ to function properly. It does best of course not have to choose. If the choice has to be made, ‘presence is always the better part’. The Lord becomes present to us in every Eucharistic Feast!
Sat. … We need to ensure that our giving and doing, even for good purposes do not become compulsions by gratifying our own needs under the guise of serving others. It can divide and pull us apart and can make us cynical and judgmental towards others. We all need to find a proper balance between being generous givers and thankful receivers in order to spread and to receive the love that surrounds us all.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we may be ever alert and quick to see Your loving encounters with us. May we gratefully receive Your hospitality in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist at every available opportunity and enjoy Christ’s true presence. May we too rejoice like St Paul in the carrying of our Crosses and especially when we carry it for others. By Your Holy Spirit, grant us the grace to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ by our actions of love and charity to others and the wisdom to sit at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ and listen to the ‘Good News’ in his Word. May we as Christians extend to others the same ‘hospitality’ we receive from You.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.