Homily Sixteenth Sunday Year C Different meanings

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Homily: Sixteenth Sunday Year C

Reading 1: We have a reading that speaks on the surface of hospitality. Being in a desert area with a few trees around, one does not get visitors regularly. So when Abraham sees the three men, he was excited and wanted to show them hospitality by bathing their feet and providing a meal for them. That is the surface view. But let’s go beneath the surface.

Did you notice the back and forth between the Lord and the three men. It begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham and ends with what the Lord said. In between it refers to the three men. Sounds confusing, but it isn’t. The early Church Fathers interpreted this and other similar passages as the initial revelation of the true identity of God: Three Persons but one God.  It is not that the author would have been aware of this as he wrote. But God, inspiring him, was revealing the seeds of this mystery of faith which becomes clearer through Jesus and after Pentecost.

The first message is that of hospitality; the second, that of initial revelation of the fuller mystery of the Trinity. The third message is the prophetic promise made to Abraham decades earlier—your wife Sarah will have a son. After all these years of waiting, now when Sarah is beyond the age of child bearing Abraham is told of a son in a year. What is not included in this passage is that, hearing this, Sarah laughed, expressing her disbelief. But as we know, the prophetic promised was fulfilled. God is faithful.

Reading 2: Paul writes something which has raised questions, namely, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” If we believe that Christ’s suffering and death on the cross was all sufficient for our salvation, what does Paul mean?

Over the years as the Church reflected on Paul's words, it became clearer that Christ, as part of his sufferings, included our sufferings for his sake as part of the redemptive act. It is not that he needed our sufferings to complete his sacrifice, but he wanted our sufferings to be united to his sufferings. Why? He wanted to give meaning and purpose to our sufferings. The unique importance of what Jesus did on the cross for our salvation is not changed. Instead, our sufferings, united to his, changes us from suffering with anger and negativity to suffering with surrender and love. We have seen people who suffer without purpose or hope of meaning and are bitter. We have seen those who embrace their sufferings and unite them to Jesus’. What a difference the two are.

Gospel: Hospitality is the first connection with the first reading. Background. Jesus is a friend of Mary, Martha and their brother, Lazarus. When in the area of Jerusalem, he would stay at their house outside of Jerusalem in the mountain close to the Mount of Olives.
When Jesus came with his apostles, Mary, Martha and Lazarus welcomed and showed them hospitality by making them comfortable, probably washing their feet and preparing a meal.

But the Gospel speaks of two activities going on. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening and reflecting on his teachings. Martha is preparing a meal. On the surface it seems that Mary should be helping Martha. At least that is what Martha felt. She is anxious and troubled about many things.

What Mary is doing is good for Mary and what Martha is doing is good for her. Both are good, but one is better. Martha is focused on doing for Jesus, while Mary is focus on Jesus. Martha rebukes Jesus for not telling Mary to help her. Jesus shares an important teaching with Martha.

There are many good things in life, but some may distract us from the better. Mary has chosen not just a good thing, but the more important thing, namely, focusing her attention on Jesus, seeking a deeper oneness with Jesus. Martha has chosen a good thing, preparing a meal.

It is a matter of both/and rather than either/or. Our life should revolve around doing what needs to be done at the moment, but also on spending time and focusing on the Lord and his teachings. For in the end what will be the most important aspect of heaven? Gazing on the face of God as well as enjoying the bliss of eternity.

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