Bulletin: July 17, 2022
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Summer is in full swing and tent camping is often a memory-making part of it—sometimes just because of the difficulties of putting up the tent! In today’s first reading we see Abraham sitting at the entrance to his tent and welcoming three unexpected strangers. By the end of the story God’s covenant with Abraham is renewed with the promise that Sarah will give birth to a son. Psalm 15 answers the question, “Lord, who may abide in your tent?” The answer leaves little doubt about what is required to live in the presence of the Lord. In his letter to the Colossians Paul confirms that “the mystery” that was hidden from past ages is now being revealed. The Gospel account of Martha and Mary’s ways of welcoming Jesus again emphasizes the central truth that God’s promise of salvation is real and present—if only we would listen.
CHOOSING THE BETTER PART?
Is it possible to listen to the Gospel story about Mary and Martha without immediately “hearing between the lines” as Martha mutters to herself, “Why do I have to do all the work around here?” Or without always feeling the sting of Jesus’ gentle reprimand of Martha? Without slotting our friends into either the “Martha” or “Mary” column? Without quickly “translating” the story into a lesson about the value of listening over action? Interestingly, Mary never says a word in this story. All of the dialogue is between Jesus and Martha. The importance of first listening to Jesus is, without a doubt, essential to discipleship. We need to be deeply rooted in the Word of God if we want to spread the Good News and stand firm in time of trial or temptation. Yet what does that mean when guests need to be fed?
WHEN WORK BECOMES OUR PRAYER
We know that hospitality to strangers was a central value in the cultural world of Jesus. Abraham’s welcome of the three strangers at his tent was expected protocol for the time. Sarah’s meal-making for the unexpected guests is blessed with welcome news of a son—and the keeping of God’s promise to Abraham. Immediately before the Mary and Martha story in the Gospel of Luke is the story of the Good Samaritan. That parable is unwavering about the importance of action—of going out of our way for others. In the Abraham and the Good Samaritan stories, action predominates. Yet in the next chapter of Luke when a woman in the crowd shouts out, “Blessed is the womb that carried you . . . ,” Jesus responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Hymnwriter Herman Stuempfle expresses well the relationship between action and contemplation when he writes that we thank the Lord both for quiet time and for the Word that accompanies us in our work and helps make that work a prayer.