Daily Reflection
July 18th, 2004
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

It takes a certain amount of humility to be surprised and God’s ways are seen to be surprising in today’s readings. With all the emphasis on Security Checks in our world, being surprised has the element of fear.

We pray then for the grace of humility and faith to welcome the surprising visits of grace in its many forms. Expectations of how things “have to be” “how people have to be” prevent the welcome which the gifts from God need to be received. We can pray as well for a conversion of images. God’s image can have many facial human features. God frowns, snickers, and seems blandly uninterested. God smiles lovingly upon our human condition and attentively watches and encourages this human family of need. We can pray as well to see the face of Jesus in those who come calling with surprises.

My mother, in her first year of marriage, (so our family story goes) was visited by a charming salesman who beguiled her into buying some magazines. As the story goes, (mostly related by my father), those periodicals never crossed the doorstep after the salesman crossed it.

This experience left my mother with a terrible distaste for any person selling anything at her or our door. One day, a vacuum cleaner salesman rang our doorbell and I was the only one home. He was sincere and quite convincing about his product and our need for a cleaner home. I invited him in and he spread out all the attachments and began vacuuming our living room when my cold-hearted mother arrived home. She said not a word to the fellow, but to me she announced over her shoulder, “If you want to buy it, go ahead.”   I had the humility to welcome him, but not the money to please him.

We hear in today’s First Reading of a visit to Abraham by three somebodies. God and two angels? Abraham seems to know they are not salesmen and so welcomes them with more than casual excitement. He has his wife prepare some breads and other servants to prepare a great meal as a sign of hospitality. In the previous chapter of Genesis, God has promised that Abraham’s wife, Sara would have a son. Her name, as with Abraham, is changed. She is now Sarah. This name means “Princess” and from her will be born kings.

In our reading today, the question is asked by the divine-visitors whether Abraham and Sarah have a son. When the reply is negative, the promise is renewed and Sarah laughs, not in derision, but in surprise. The son will be born within the year and his name, Isaacc, will mean, “God smiles kindly”. Abraham welcomed the surprise of his visitors and Sarah welcomed the surprise of her visitor to her womb and family of faith.

Jesus comes visiting his friends, the two sisters Martha and Mary. They too welcome him, but in two different ways. Martha has expectations of just how Jesus should be treated by her and especially by her sister. Mary is preparing to welcome all that this visitor is and her expectations reveal the new form of welcome which Luke has been narrating.

Just before these verses today, are last-Sunday’s verses of the “Good Samaritan” who crosses boundaries to care for a person who is different, but beaten. Our reading today is the final section of all that Luke has shared about Jesus’ teachings concerning discipleship. Mary sits there doing more than nothing. She is welcoming more than Jesus is as person. She is welcoming into her mind and heart all that Jesus has come to offer as gift to those who have ears to hear. The Martha-ing is good and helpful, but her expectations are being invited to be rearranged. First the hearing, then the taking inside all that Jesus is, and then there will be the life of sharing. This little summation of Jesus’ teaching is not about the role of contemplation and action. These verses present the two women as good and holy, but discipleship is the new surprise Jesus has come to offer.

It does take humility to be rearranged by the surprises of God’s ways. God comes not to sell us something, but that we might buy into the ways of hospitality towards the various visitations of our lives. Expectations are natural, in fact too natural. They bespeak demand, security, control, and severity. The Latin root for this word is to “look out”. We can either “look out!!!!” in fear or “look out” in wonder, amazement as with Sarah and Mary. We can say “O what’s next???” or “what’s next?” with hands, palms up. Discipleship is more than merely doing good things. It begins and survives with the belief that God smiles kindly towards us through the faces of those who come calling. It continues through our faces as we go doing the good things, surprising this world with the smile of God.

We are not sales persons selling a Jesus who wants to clean up our houses and lives. We, as disciples, are rearranged from our expectations of not receiving what was promised or paid for. We are meant and sent to surprise this world by how we live with the surprises and rearrangings in our own lives. We move out after we have been sitting, taking in as much of Jesus as we can.

“Look up at the Lord and with gladness and smile; your face will never be ashamed.” Ps. 34, 6

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Let Your Friends Know About This Reflection By Sending Them An E-mail


Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook