|Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary
Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
Love has an urgency to reveal itself and in doing so bring about more life and liveliness. God is Infinite Love and so cannot not reveal that love and bring about that life and liveliness which is creation.
In today’s First Reading we hear a wonderful love story. Abraham and Sarah have been married a long time and have no children. Abraham’s call from God was accompanied by a promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven and the grains of sand in the sea. So as the reading opens, Abraham is having an ordinary day when he has a visit. Three men appear nearby his tent and Abraham excitedly welcomes them and urges them to stay for dinner.
When asked by his visitors where his wife was, Abraham told them she was in the nearby tent after fixing the meal to which he had invited his guests. One of them affirms that within the next year she would have a son. Sarah and Abraham, by being trusting even into their old age, had chosen the better part and it will not be taken from them. They had been bought into a life of believing and living that faith.
Today's Gospel concludes a long section of Luke’s Gospel containing various features of Jesus’ way of living and missioning. We have heard many of these details these past several weeks. We have heard about Jesus’ determination and singularity of purpose as He made His way to Jerusalem. Those who follow Him must let everything else go; they must be free for their own journeys.
Last week we heard perhaps the most challenging element of following Jesus. We, who follow, must not pass by on the other side of our neighbor who is in trouble. Our neighbor is defined as any brother or sister of Jesus. Especially, our neighbors are those we, by nature, would avoid. This culminates the instructions and perhaps is the most difficult.
Today we find Jesus as a guest of two women, Martha and her sister Mary. Martha is busy preparing and her sister is not joining her busyness, but is seated at His feet, enjoying or receiving Jesus. Martha has taken a bad reputation for being busy and Mary is celebrated for being contemplative. Sarah and Mary have taken the better part which can not be taken from them.
This too is a love story, but not a validation of the contemplative life and a putting down of the active life. Jesus has just been encouraging His followers to be quite active in presenting the “King of God.” The Good Samaritan has been celebrated in a parable for his having done good things for his former enemy, turned neighbor. So there must be something here deeper than the distinction between doing and being.
This is a love story as well and the Divine Visitor reveals how love works. When I was a young Jesuit, learning to love God, I understood that I would be loving God if I were working as hard as I could. At the end of the day I would go to the chapel and review all the things I had done that day. I would be doing this while picking at the calyces which were like so many rosary beads. I had physical proof that I had loved God. I would pray this way before going to bed and so felt quite good about myself. God loved me because I had done good things for God.
There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to force God to love us less. We can do some things to be more and, of course, less aware or involved with that love. Martha is a doer in today’s Gospel, but Mary represents all of us who are loved, but who also buy into all that Jesus has been instructing His followers to do in the previous chapters. The “part” that is “better” and which Mary has chosen is simply Jesus, in His totality. She will move into action, because she has bought into the parable of the Good Samaritan and all the rest of the Jesus-movement. Jesus knows how revolutionary His teachings are and what demands He is making upon His followers. This is still a love story between Jesus and ourselves whom Martha and Mary both represent. Martha is the part of us, which wants to win or earn God’s love. Jesus sees Mary as the part of us, which accepts being loved. He looks upon Mary and sees she does accept all that He has been trying to tell humanity about who we are and what we can do to continue the urgency of God’s love in this world.
Pick your calyces if you wish and may they all be earned by sharing
God’s love and the person of Jesus, because you have chosen the better
part; being part of this love story.
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