Sunday July 21st 2019 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings is: Holy Communion is Serious Stuff
Psalm 15:1-5, Genesis 18:1-10, Colossians 1:24-28, Luke 10:38-42
“The time has come to take care of some business on the earth,” said God. “Let’s take a couple of angels on the road with us and visit our friend Abraham while we’re down there.”
We pick up the scene with today’s reading in Genesis 18:1-10. It was another scorching desert afternoon, entirely too hot to do anything but chill out in the shade by the tent. Through the mirage like distortion of heat waves rising off the sand Abraham sees three “men” in the distance. They’re coming toward him. He jumps up and sprints to meet them. Bowing prostrate, he pleads that they accept his hospitality. They agree and the progenitor of the Jewish nation, the defeater of armies, and our father in faith springs up and bolts back to the tent. “Hurry, Sarah,” he says. “Take three measures of fine flour and make some bread. I’ll have a servant prepare a calf…milk and cottage cheese too. We must outdo ourselves today. The Boss is coming to dinner!” In the text, the mention of Levitical ceremonial items: the calf and flour, hint at the scene being more of a sacrificial meal rather than a communal one. Abraham standing by as a waiting servant enforces this sense. He watches as the visitors eat and does not join in. The Almighty has graced him with his presence. In humility, he responds by laying all that he has, even himself, before the Lord with open hands and open heart. Though God declared that he and Abraham are friends, Abraham knows that they are not “buds”. We should also keep that boundary in mind as we approach the Master.
Martha was very happy when Jesus accepted her invitation to stay over the house. Dinner might be a challenge, but she had her sister, Mary to help. Mary couldn’t contain herself when the Raboni and His disciples arrived! After greeting them, Martha returned to the kitchen. Mary planted herself at Jesus’ feet, eager to hear what He had to say. She knew her customary place was helping Martha in the kitchen, but wild horses couldn’t drag her away. This was Jesus after all! Martha’s annoyance with Mary grew to frustration as she ignored her throat clearing and pot clanging hints for assistance. It didn’t help that word about Jesus got out to the neighborhood. Everyone was dropping in. The Master always drew a crowd. They had to be greeted, seated and “meated” by yours truly, Martha. Finally, the tyranny of the kitchen became unbearable and right in the middle of one of the Lord’s “blessed be’s”, she exploded. “Jesus! Can’t you see what’s going on here?” Martha yelled.
“Chill, Martha!” He replied. “You’re all over the place. Don’t go to all this trouble. We’re low maintenance. You asked us to be here. So be with us like Mary is doing. That’s the more important thing. Hmmm…I wonder what Martha did after Jesus’ tender rebuke.
I read the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 and it reminds me of the struggle we go through the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas: presents vs presence, buying vs abiding, in pieces instead of at peace, always a Martha and never a Mary. Jesus says it doesn’t have to be this way. Make the better choice. The same battle goes for worship: distractions vs passion, cares vs prayers, duty vs devotion, concern over leaving the parking lot when you’ve never really showed up. Stop! Make the better choice. Even in our daily lives, you can’t do it all: TV, internet, job, and family…it’s madding! Let something go! Sit at the Master’s feet. Make the right choice. Because…
Ready or not, one day you’re going to God’s house for dinner. He’s not throwing a come as you are barbecue, either. It’s a royal, glorious, beautifully sublime wedding banquet. You have to prepare! In our reading in Colossians, the Apostle Paul rejoices over his suffering, of all things, in fulfilling his God given charge concerning the Church. Paul’s whole purpose for living is to proclaim the Gospel, admonish, and teach everyone with all wisdom in order to present every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). In Psalm 15:1, David asks the question: O Lord, who can stay at your house (tent)? The remaining four verses in the Psalm goes into a list of virtues a true child of God possesses. Even though a child of God may have these virtues by reason of the Holy Spirit, they MUST be cultivated. We can glean some insights from our readings today on how to do this.
Like Abraham, we need a healthy fear of God. I know that we don’t hear much about that anymore. Back in the sixties we went to confession almost weekly, even venial sins. We also fasted at least three hours before Holy Communion. This fostered humility, focus, and wonder about receiving the Lord in the Eucharist. These preparations are not required today, but it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate them, anyway. Come to Jesus with clean hands and a pure heart. In making the right choices, as with Martha, being in love with God is foundational. We can take a lesson from a church in the New Testament. The church at Ephesus did everything right and stood firm against heresies, but Jesus complained that they didn’t love Him anymore. It was a dry marriage. God is all about the relationship. He uses the dinner example to point this out:
Revelation 3:20 King James Version (KJV)
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
So answer the door and let Jesus in. Regain your awe of the Lord and His table. Pursue Him like a lover with right life choices so that when the day comes to meet Him face to face you won’t be strangers.