Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Homily for Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

If an unexpected visitor arrived at my family’s home my mother would mobilize the older kids to help welcome and serve the guest.  My oldest sister would be assigned to the kitchen to help get the coffee going and make up a plate of cookies. I would be assigned to turn off the radio, be sure the guest got the best chair and hang up coats. Dad and the younger kids would chat with the guest until the refreshments arrived.

When the refreshments did arrive the young kids were often urged to ‘go play’ so the older folks could talk.

One day a favorite Aunt arrived early for a planned visit while Mom and Dad were still at the grocery store.
My oldest sister went right to work in the kitchen and I did my part. My other siblings crowded around our aunt but the second oldest sister soon took over the conversation. This sister was an expert at asking questions and soon the conversation was a full blown  interview. Fortunately my aunt was enjoying the attention.

At that point my older sister came stomping out of the kitchen demanded that her sister join her in preparing the refreshments.

Perhaps you have similar memories that make today’s Gospel reading from Luke seem very familiar.

Luke tells us a little story about Jesus’ visit to the village of Bethany and his first visit with a family that will play an important role in his earthly journey.

He is invited to dine at the home of a local family that most likely heard him preach. The assertive sister, Martha, probably rushed right up and invited the traveling Rabbi home for dinner.

When he arrive the assertive sister starts preparing the meal while the quiet sister, Mary, is making the guest comfortable. Soon the teacher is engaged in conversation with Mary and the rest of the family.

Then Martha emerges from the kitchen and demands that Mary come and help with the preparation of the meal.

Jesus does not send Mary to the kitchen or ask Martha to come and listen. He implies that both roles are important and that Mary had chosen the ‘better’ part.

This bible story has created endless discussion about how best to follow the lord. Is it better to ‘serve’ the Lord or ‘listen’ to the lord? Am I a ‘Martha type’ or am I a ‘Mary type’?

Another way of describing today’s Gospel and  Old Testament readings is as lessons about hospitality.

In our reading from the Book of Genesis we find Abraham and to Sarah camped at a desert oasis. In the midday heat he is sitting in the shade near his tent praying. He looks up and sees three travelers arriving.

He rushes to meet them offering to bring them water and food. He urges them to stay a while. He has Sarah begin preparing a meal, sends servants for water and has additional meat sent to the kitchen.

He visits with them and when the meal is ready he serves it himself. During the conversation that follows the meal one of the three tell Abraham that when he returns in a year that Sarah will have a son.

Sarah overhears the prediction and she laughs to herself since her monthly cycles have stopped. While she had always wanted children she knew it was very unlikely that she would conceive now, at her advanced age.

But she did conceive and Isaac was born before the year was out.

Again we see a biblical story that demonstrates both listening to God and serving God.
In a sense serving and listening are connected. By serving the strangers in the oasis, Abraham and Sarah were able to hear God’s prophesy about Isaac. By welcoming Jesus into their home Mary and Martha learned that listening to God and serving God are both required.

In the Gospel of Matthew (ch 25:31-46)
We read or hear Jesus describing the final judgment in a way that makes this point dramatically.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ”

That’s pretty clear.  Serve your fellow men and women and you will be serving God. Listen to your fellow men and women and you will hear of the presence of God in their lives.

Martha and Mary encounter Jesus in the context of a meal.

Abraham and Sarah encounter God’s messengers and share a meal with them.

We encounter Jesus here at Mass both by listening to his teaching and in a meal, in the Eucharist. In both ways he asks us to go forth and share his Good News by serving our fellow men and women.

© Copyright 2013 Joseph E. Hilber. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

No comments: