Sunday July 17, 2022 The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings is: Holy Communion is Serious Stuff
“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 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 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, such as the calf and flour, hint at the scene being more of a sacrificial meal rather than a communal one. Abraham standing by as a waiter enforces this sense. He watches as the visitors eat and does not join in. The Almighty has graced him with His presence. In humility, Abraham responds by laying out all that he has, even himself, before the Lord with open hands and open heart. Though God had declared that He and Abraham are friends, Abraham knows that they are not “buds”. When it comes to the Master, we should always keep that boundary in mind.
My interpretation of the scene in today’s gospel in Luke 10:38-42 goes something like this. Martha was very happy when Jesus accepted her invitation to stay over at the house. Dinner might be a challenge, but she had her sister, Mary, to help. Mary couldn’t contain herself when the Lord 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 from this opportunity to be with Him. This was Jesus after all! Martha’s annoyance with Mary grew into 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 either. 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…Martha!
When I read the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 it reminds me of the struggle I go through the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas: presents vs. presence, buying vs. abiding, in pieces instead of at peace. I seem to always end up being a Martha more than a Mary. The same battle goes for worship: distractions vs. contemplation, cares vs. prayers, duty vs. devotion. I’m sure that I’m not alone. Even in our daily lives, we can’t seem to fit it all in: TV, internet, job, and family…it’s madding! We have to stop and examine our situations and, if need be, let something go! We need the opportunity to sit at the Master’s feet. We must make the better choice. Because…
Ready or not, one day every believer is 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, for the purpose of fulfilling his God given charge concerning the Church. Paul’s whole purpose for living is to proclaim the gospel while admonishing and teaching everyone 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 go 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 step up your game and incorporate them, anyway. Come to Jesus with clean hands, a pure heart, and reverence. In making the right choices, be a Mary. Rather than saying that we love God we need to be truly in love with God. We can take a lesson from a church in the New Testament. The church at Ephesus was doctrinally sound and stood firm against heresies, but Jesus complained that they didn’t love Him anymore. Their mechanical “go through the motion” worship changed their romance with Christ into a dry marriage. How’s your Jesus love affair going? Christ is all about the relationship. He uses a dinner example to point this out. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me (Rev:3:20)”.
The Boss is coming to dinner! He wants to be with you. He’s at the door. It would be the height of foolishness to shout from the inside, “I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in.” So, answer it! Foster your relationship with the Almighty. Each Eucharist is a sacrificial meal, a communal meal, and an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus the Lover of your soul. Regain your awe of the Lord and His table. Pursue Him like a lover with right life choices and holy living so that when the day comes to meet Him face to face…you won’t be a stranger.