THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
We continue our journey to Jerusalem and the word of God accompanies us in that great and long journey. Last Sunday we were invited to go beyond our comfort zone to engage with especially those whom we consider outside our circle of life because all of us are sons and daughters of the same Father.
Today, at an immediate glance, the readings call to mind the aspect of hospitality, and I call it a generous hospitality. This is one that invites us to slow down a little bit, and choose to listen. This is a choice of a better portion which cannot be taken away from us.
In the first reading, Abraham welcomes three strangers in the desert and offers them a banquet to refresh themselves. He does this for its own sake, but it turns out to be a great blessing to him and his wife Sarah because the strangers were messengers from God. I insist on the words ‘for its own sake’ because God’s blessing is not conditioned to our good. We do good even to strangers because it is right and just. The promise to Abraham was, ‘And Sarah your wife will have a son’. Abraham absolutely recognized the presence and favour of the Lord through these strangers. Generous hospitality rewards.
Our gospel reading invites us to rethink our hospitality. How would we make it more generous? We read this famous story of Martha and Mary and how they respond to the presence of the Lord. While Mary chose to listen to the Lord, Martha was distracted with much serving. Both are important but it turns out that Mary has chosen a better portion that cannot be taken away from her. Much as it is good to welcome the Lord, it is better to pay attention to him and to make listening to him a priority.
Paul in the second reading chose to generously preach the true gospel of Christ, one that includes everyone, even the Gentiles, in the kingdom, for God’s love is for all. The reward of this was suffering.
Where are we and what do all these mean for us?
One of the characteristics of our time is speed. Many want things done and done now. Anyone else who is not up to the task becomes a burden and has no place in our here and now. Eventually we begin to compare, compete, complain, blame, and seek intervention, thinking that everyone is supposed to do exactly what we are doing only to realize that our doing might be but a distraction. This is Martha’s portion. Today people are anxious and troubled about things that do not necessarily matter at the long run. We entertain the trivial and frivolous that only eats up our energy. We are so much in speed. Can’t we slow down a little bit and choose to listen? Can’t we allow the others to do other things because they might be equally important?
One way we can be generously hospitable is to choose to listen especially to the Lord. This calls to mind the saying, “one has time for the work of God, but no time for God the owner of the work.” This would amount to distraction. We are so much distracted by social work, for example, that we hardly get time for spiritual renewal. Jesus is reminding us to set our priorities right, and he should be our priority over and above all that we do for him.
At another level we also realize that the Lord comes to us in form of our brethren who might be discriminated against, wounded, ostracized, denied opportunities, excluded and so on. Today many people are stressed up with all sorts of issues, some of which lead to depression, schizophrenic infections and even death, simply because there may be no one to listen to them. Everyone is busy and wants to get everything done and done now only to find out at the end that our business is simply a distraction from what is important. Would I slow down and listen to the Lord today in these kind of people for their sake? At times people do not necessarily need any material things but our attention. This is the generous hospitality we are invited to consider today and it will turn out to be a better portion that cannot be taken away from us.
May we find favour in the sight of the Lord today, that he may not pass us, but count us among those who may abide in his tent.