18 July 2010


18 JULY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time, and the long dog days of Summer are upon us. Today's reading can be found here.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, the Lord appears to Abraham as three strangers, whom Abraham is quick to serve. In response to Abraham's hospitality, the Lord promises to return to Abraham again in a year, at which time Sarah, thought to be barren, would be with child. So, Abraham's service and hospitality for the Lord is repaid.

However, in the Gospel reading from Saint Luke we hear of Martha's complaints that she is left to wait on the Lord while her sister, Mary, did nothing but sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. When Martha asks the Lord to make Mary give her assistance, Christ responds:
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.There is need of only one thing.Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
However, Christ does not ignore or reproach Martha for her hospitality who, like Abraham, has the great honor of personally serving the Lord. Instead, Christ responds to Martha's complaints and says: do not be anxious about your perception of others or your own slights. Be focused, instead, on the one thing that is important: the Word of God.

Indeed, to serve the Lord is an honor. We see from the first reading and the Gospel that there can be two paths to that service: an active service that is focused on the physical needs of others, and a contemplative or interior service that is focused on the Word of the Lord.

And, in the second reading too, we hear Saint Paul's words of acknowledgment of his service for the Lord:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister . . . .
Although Saint Paul has suffered for Christ, that suffering is a cause for his rejoicing exactly because it has been endured in service to Christ. Suffering too can be offered and endured in service to our Lord. We need look no farther than the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Theresa to see contemporary examples of this truth.

In a profound sense suffering unifies both the active service to the Lord and the contemplative because often physical suffering produces interior anguish. To stay firm to Christ, then, in that interior difficulty, and to offer physical and other suffering to God, is a manner of service that all of us, at one time or another, can give to the Lord in the image of Abraham and Martha.

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