Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
How do we bring balance and joy to our lives of prayer and service to our loving God?
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells Martha that her concern about doing the right thing as dictated by Jewish tradition might not be the best use of her energies. Her sister, Mary, who sits in rapt attention at Jesus’ feet, should not be rebuked. Is Jesus trying to show Martha that she needs to make time for her spiritual nourishment?
Abraham and Sarah in the first reading seem to be just like Martha. And yet Abraham’s eager welcome and joyful serving of his “visitors” seems almost spiritual. How like Paul, in the second reading, rejoicing in his service to the gospel!
We hear in the psalm that those who do justice will live in the Lord’s presence. Prayer and service—what greater joy could there be?
We are blessed today with stories about relationships—human and divine—and the joys and responsibilities that come along with them. They are also stories about justice.
Our Gospel tells the familiar story of overly anxious Martha complaining to Jesus about her sister, Mary, who is not helping her with her hospitality responsibilities but is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Can’t you just imagine Jesus between these two righteous women disciples?
Jesus’ answer to Martha—that the actions of her seemingly lazy sister are actually OK—hardly seems fair. As we will show later, caring about the responsibilities that come with treating others well brings rewards, but there is a difference in how one approaches the task.
THOSE WHO DO JUSTICE
Psalm 15 describes the life of justice and the reward of joy in God’s presence. We know that justice always involves service. Can we find joy in service, perhaps even in suffering?
Saint Paul writes to the Colossians that his life of suffering service to them and to the other churches is a source of joy to him. His relationship with them, although filled with affliction, is its own reward, as he brings people into relationship with Jesus Christ.
Abraham and Sarah, the righteous elderly couple of the Old Testament, are emblematic of this kind of relationship. Abraham welcomes “strangers” with eager hospitality, not knowing that his visitors are divine messengers, even the Holy One of Israel! His spouse, Sarah, does all she can to aid Abraham in making their guests comfortable and welcome. In return for their generous hospitality, the childless aged couple are rewarded with a blessing—a son, Isaac.
How do they differ from Martha, though? Martha allows her duties and service to overwhelm her with anxiety. Abraham fairly leaps for joy to be of service to his guests.
If you are a Martha, the lesson is to keep serving but find the joy that gives true meaning to your service.
Today’s Readings: Gen 18:1–10a; Ps 15:2–3, 3–4, 5; Col 1:24–28; Lk 10:38–42