July 19, 2013

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 profound 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 tells the story of Abraham. For the ancient Hebrews, Abraham, who actually lived according to scholars and who was therefore no mythical or imaginary figure, was the 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 drink and food as well as shelter from the hot sun. 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.

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 he often endured in the process of being an Apostle and of preaching the Gospel. Paul is imprisoned. Yet, he still called the Christians of Colossae to fidelity.

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

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 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 is a true disciple. Actually Martha was of great faith. In another reading, she rushed to Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus to express her faith in the Lord as the source of life. This weekend’s story simply shows that Martha was human, confined by human concerns and limitations.

These three readings altogether teach us that humans have problems, maybe legitimate problems. Sarah was unable to conceive when sterility, especially for a woman of her time, was a great source of shame and of a personal sense of failure.

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

Yet, despite all these problems, neither Paul nor Martha lost faith. God was in their hearts. Nothing is impossible for God. He is supreme over the constraints of nature and the power of the proud Roman Empire.

Son of God, Jesus ignored human conventions if salvation was at stake. He went to Martha and Mary, to share the Good News, when the hard and fast rule was that a single man should never 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 about God’s power—and loving will—to satisfy us despite our needs. We simply must welcome God, as did Abraham, Martha and Mary. †

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