July 15, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis provides us with this weekend’s first reading. For a century or more, Genesis has carried the heavy burden of being considered almost totally in terms of its creation narratives, of which actually there are several, but Genesis offers other important lessons.

For example, it tells us about Abraham, who is at the center of this weekend’s first reading.

Three men stand before Abraham, and Abraham receives them hospitably. He offers them drink, food and shelter from the hot sun and the night when predators roam in search of prey. He tells Sarah, his wife, to prepare the best of foods.

Then, one of the men tells Abraham that within the year Sarah will give birth to a child. In the ancient Hebrew culture, nothing was more important than the arrival of new life. A child continued the life of its parents. Any infant therefore was a sign of unending life itself.

The man acknowledged Abraham’s devotion to God, seen in the hospitality he was offered.

For its second reading, the Church gives us a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, written when Paul was imprisoned.

He called the Christians in the communities of Asia Minor to fidelity, in this case the Christians of Colossae.

Paul insisted that he was commissioned by God to preach the Gospel. It was no task that he simply took upon himself. Rather, God called him to be an Apostle so that the world would know Christ. In Christ is God’s love. In Christ is God’s truth.

St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is a familiar story. Jesus is in the home of Mary and Martha. He is their guest. Mary wants only to listen to Jesus. Martha is concerned about the details of hosting the Lord.

Jesus counsels Martha not to worry about these details, but instead to listen—with Mary—to the words of salvation.

Reflection

At times, this passage from Luke is used to suggest that Martha was either shortsighted or else wanting in faith, whereas Mary was a true disciple. It should be recalled that Martha, in another reading, rushed to Jesus after the death of Lazarus to express her faith in the Lord’s power to resurrect Lazarus. Martha was hardly lacking in faith. This story simply highlights Martha’s humanity, shown in how she was confined by human concerns and limitations.

These three readings teach us that humans have legitimate problems. Sarah was unable to conceive, to produce a child. She was human. Her human age created problems. People made no allowance for this natural circumstance. They ridiculed her, unable to have a child when child-bearing was so important.

Paul was held in captivity by powerful but ignorant authorities, at worst the enemies of God and true justice. Martha was caught up in the normal, everyday demands of life.

Despite these problems, God entered the picture with salvation and hope. Nothing is impossible for God. Constraints of nature were not able to prevent Sarah’s motherhood. The mighty Roman Empire could not contain the power of St. Paul.

The hard and fast rules of the culture at the time could not restrain Jesus. Important to the story in Luke is the Lord’s utter disregard for the taboo that a single man should never enter the home of a woman or women, or never take a meal with a woman.

The readings are about our need for God, and about God’s will to be with us despite our limitations. He will come to us, with mercy and strength, if simply we are loyal, as was Abraham. †

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