HOMILY SUNDAY 16 – C
Living within a Mystery
(Gen 18:1-10a; Psalm 15; Col 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42)
All three readings today provide rich food for thought and nourishment for our spirit. They do so in a way that interconnects and weaves a strong invitation to us: we are invited to live within the mystery of Christ among us, leading us to experience a rich glory.
In the second reading, Paul’s enthusiasm for this mystery, for this gospel, this message of salvation, is contagious. He is more than willing to suffer for the sake of the Church, the body of Christ, so much so that we are drawn into that same desire to suffer, with him, for the sake of the Good News.
We are told that God’s message was a mystery until now, and that this message, this mystery is now revealed to the saints, the pagans. Paul wants to educate and train all in this wisdom, to make us all perfect in Christ.
This mystery, Christ among us that is being revealed through the Church, connects with the revelation Abraham experiences in the heat of the desert day. The Lord appears to him, mysteriously, as three strangers standing nearby.
The fact there are at times three persons in the revelation to Abraham, yet each time he speaks it is to a single person, and we are told that it is the Lord who appears to him, signals that Abraham is able to catch glimpses of the mystery Paul is speaking of. There is here an unmistakable hint of a Trinitarian God that would only be clear with the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Abraham’s response to this visitation by the Lord is to provide the best of Bedouin hospitality, much like Martha in the gospel. However, he does that more like Mary, standing nearby under a tree, attentive to the needs of his visitor or visitors without being distracted like Martha.
The fact that the gospel begins with the words “Jesus came to a village” connects with the mystery Paul speaks of: the mystery of Christ among us. Jesus comes into our villages as well, into our lives, where we are invited to encounter him, as did Mary and Martha.
It is likely Jesus came into their home with a specific need. Luke’s gospel has Jesus making one journey to Jerusalem to face his destiny – his passion and death on the cross. It is probable he just needed a quiet, intimate time with his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, to share what was on his heart with them and invite them to do the same with him – the food would take care of itself. He just needed company, to be understood and listened to at this time – something I think we can identify with, and it is Mary who picked up on this, whereas Martha was just too busy.
Martha starts out well, extending hospitality to Jesus, as did Abraham. However, her problem is not providing hospitality; it is that she was distracted, upset, not at peace with her role as host. There are some provinces where signs are displayed reading: Distracted Driving Laws in Effect. Martha’s ministry was important, but she was distracted. Her ministry needed to be couched within a life of prayer and intimate communion with God that would then express itself in loving, peaceful service to others. In that sense, Mary has chosen the better part, the part that needs to somehow be a priority without taking anything away from ministry and service.
Fr. Bob Mitchell, OFM, has a unique way of describing this Martha and Mary syndrome. Most people, he claims, live busy lives into which they try to insert moments of prayer. It should be the other way around, he argues. We should live prayerful lives, into which we insert times of ministry and service. Certainly, that is an ideal which we can try to achieve.
The Eucharist is a celebration of the mystery of Christ among us. It is also both a Mary and Martha experience. Like Mary, we sit as disciples at the feet of Jesus, listening to him through the Liturgy of the Word and communing with him through the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Then, we are empowered and sent out like Martha, to serve the needs of the world to the best of our ability.
May our celebration today help us live the mystery of Christ among us, leading to an experience of rich glory as we both love our God and serve God’s world, striving to be both Martha and Mary.