July 16, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis unfortunately bears the burden of being remembered, and usually discussed, only in terms of its creation narratives.

While the creation of all things and beings in existence by Almighty God is a major revelation, Genesis has much more to say than just about how long it took God to create the world from nothingness.

This weekend’s first reading is an example of the power of Genesis in its revelation of a circumstance far removed from the story of creation.

It is the story of Abraham. For the ancient Hebrews, Abraham, who actually lived, according to biblical scholars, and was not a mythical or imaginary figure, was a great model of faith. He is no less worthy as a model for Christians.

In this weekend’s reading, God comes into the presence of Abraham. Three men stand before Abraham, and Abraham receives them hospitably.

Abraham offers them food and drinks as well as shelter from the hot sun. He tells Sarah, his wife, to prepare the best of foods for them.

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 the parents.

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

This epistle was written when Paul was facing one of the hardships that he often endured in the process of being an Apostle and preaching the Gospel.

Paul is imprisoned, yet he still called the Christians of Colossae to fidelity.

Even in prison, he was still functioning as an Apostle and a believer, insisting that he was “commissioned” by God to preach the Gospel. Paul exemplified faith as much as he wrote about it.

St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is a very familiar story. Jesus is in the home of Mary and Martha. He is their guest. Mary wants to listen to Jesus, but Martha is concerned about the details of being the Lord’s hostess.

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


Often, Martha is seen as too preoccupied with herself, forgetting the important things, opposite Mary, who was a true disciple.

Actually, Martha was a woman of great faith. In another reading, she rushed to Jesus after the death of Lazarus to express her faith in the Lord as the source of life.

This weekend’s story simply shows that Martha was human, and was confined by human concerns and limitations.

These three readings teach us that humans have complicated problems.

Sarah was unable to conceive when sterility, especially for a woman of her time, was a great source of scorn and personal sense of failure.

Paul was held in captivity by, at best, ignorant authorities and, at worst, by enemies of God and true justice.

Martha was simply caught up in the normal, everyday demands of a busy life.

Yet, despite all their problems, no one lost faith. God entered their lives. Nothing is impossible for God. He is supreme over the constraints of nature and the power of the proud Roman Empire.

The Son of God, Jesus ignored human conventions if salvation was at stake. He went to Martha and Mary to voice the Good News when the hard and fast rule was that no single man should enter the home of a woman or women, and absolutely never take a meal with a woman.

These readings tell us about our need for God, and on the other hand about God’s power to satisfy us despite our needs.

We simply must welcome him, as did Abraham, Martha and Mary. †

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