Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 21, 2013

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Central Idea: Christ wants to dwell in us to transform us into perfect images of himself. Doctrine: Active vs. contemplative lives. Practical Application: Living active-contemplative lives.

To view the Lectionary 108 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Christ wants to dwell in us to transform us into perfect images of himself

Reading 1 Gn 18:1-10a

  • In the ancient Middle East, hospitality to strangers was a very important virtue. It remains a worthy human and Christian virtue.
  • Here we see Abraham’s ready service to three travelers. Even though he is a wealthy man, with many cattle and servants, Abraham makes himself their servant, sees to their comfort and rest, has the best foods prepared for them, and then waits on them himself.
  • The three men are angels—or more—in human form. Before departing, one of them announces he will bring about what Abraham and Sarah want more than anything, a son who will fulfill God’s promises to them.
  • When the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (13:2), he was referring to this episode.
  • Christian readers have seen this event as an early revelation of the Blessed Trinity. Three men appeared to Abraham but the sacred writer says it was the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 5

He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

  • Psalm 15 expresses very simply the qualities of the just man.
  • We need to be reminded what justice is, and when we are, we immediately see its truth.
  • The LORD will reward this kind of man by being close to him. In the New Covenant the closeness is perfected through Christ dwelling in us.

Reading 2 Col 1:24-28

  • Christ gives the members of his Church the privilege of united their own suffering to the sufferings he endured to redeem us. This gives our afflictions a whole new meaning. They are redemptive. This is why St. Paul rejoices in them and why we can also.
    • St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we conquer eternity.” (Furrow 887)
  • St. Paul’s vocation was to bring Christ to the Gentiles: Not merely to bring Christ to them as good news, but to bring Christ actually to live in them, transforming them to perfect them.

Gospel Lk 10:38-42

  • Our Lord was ever the master teacher, not merely the teacher of a universal doctrine about salvation, but also the teacher of individual souls who needed formation. One way he taught persons about what they needed was by responding to them with something completely unexpected but which they really needed to hear. Those messages also benefit us 2000 years later.
  • Martha was a good hostess preparing a meal for the Lord and his disciples. She obviously wanted things to go well, which was why she felt burdened with worry.
  • Mary was not helping. Instead, she sat at Christ’s feet, listening to him.
  • Perhaps Martha had tried to get Mary’s attention to get up and help. Perhaps Mary had deliberately ignored Martha. Maybe there was some laziness in Mary’s attitude.
  • But our Lord had come to their home less to eat than to teach. Martha was more focused on providing the food and Mary more on learning. That’s why Mary had chosen the better part, and Our Lord was not going to take that from her.

Doctrine: Active vs. contemplative lives

  • Throughout much of Catholic history, the story of Martha and Mary has been seen as important for understanding the relationship between contemplation and activity. When Thomas Aquinas examines these kinds of lives he uses Martha and Mary as examples.
  • The active life we know well. It is working, making things, doing things, improving things, fixing things, learning things. It is having children, taking care of a home, raising animals and growing food. It is being busy with many things, like Martha. Most people for most of history have lived active lives by necessity.
  • The contemplative life is the life of the mind. It is thinking about the meaning of things. It is the life of learning. It is the life of prayer. It is sitting at the feet of Truth and listening, like Mary. Jesus Christ spent whole nights in prayer and took his disciples away to a deserted place so they could pray. From the beginning of Church history, men and women left “civilization” and went into the desert or any deserted place to live as hermits or monks. Many still do today.

Practical Application: Living active-contemplative lives

  • We are called to be contemplatives in the middle of the world.
  • We live in the world as laypersons and are involved in all ordinary activities, just like everyone else.
  • At the same time, God is calling us to be united to him, to be transformed by him, to bring all our concerns to him, to carry on a conversation with him.
    • We do this contemplation both all the time and at specific times devoted to God, such as at set times of prayer and at Holy Mass.
    • An active-contemplative life integrates work and prayer.
  • We can be as busy as Martha—indeed, it is unbecoming of a child of God to be lazy—but as serene as Mary, because we are with someone at all times, Our Lord.
  • In reality, we are busy or active at all times we are not asleep, whether we are just using our minds while studying, thinking about a problem, or praying, or whether we are mainly using our bodies, while doing manual labor, playing sports, or exercising.
  • If we use every moment well, with one eye on God, we are integrating activity and contemplation in our lives.
  • Sitting at the entrance of his tent, Abraham was engaged in contemplation, in thought, but when he saw the three travelers he sprang into action to serve them.
  • We cannot do justice so as to dwell in the presence of the Lord without reflecting on how well our choices agree with God’s law.
  • When you unite the difficulties of your life to the Cross, you are achieving full integration of activity with contemplation. What is more active than suffering? And what is more contemplative than reflecting on them in the presence of God?
  • What St. Paul most wanted was for Christ to live in his spiritual children. Christ was to transform them to perfect them. The more Christ is alive in us, the more we have integrated action and contemplation.
  • In a sense, we should be like Mary when we are working and like Martha when we are praying, without the anxiety.

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