Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time -
A Reflection by Fr. Leo
One of Judaism’s highest precepts is hospitality. We see this in our first reading from Genesis. The humble insistence on hospitality by Abraham and his wife Sarah is blessed by the birth of a child. It is through this hospitality that God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled. He becomes the father of a great nation. This same humbleness is echoed in the Psalm, where the one who walks blamelessly and lives justly will live in the presence of God.
This theme of hospitality is also carried over into our gospel this morning. Martha is busy with all the preparations to serve her guest. She is doing what her faith and culture ask of her. She rightly challenges Mary’s sitting at the feet of Jesus. That is why it seems so unfair for Jesus to say, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” Martha was being so faithful to the call of hospitality as she understood it. I’m sticking up for Martha here because I could read this text as, “Leo, Leo, you are anxious and worried about many things.” Couldn’t we all?
So when Jesus claims that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her, it comes as a huge shock! This is deliberate in the writing, for it points to the purpose of the passage, to stretch the concept of hospitality to find its foundation in union with God. I don’t think Jesus would have denied the importance of both action and contemplation. He would have desired a balance between the two, with a recognition of the importance of prayer.
Mother Theresa is a great example of the balance between prayer and action. We all know of the good work she was constantly engaged in, but we may not be aware of the hours she spent in prayer each day, which grounded her in the Lord in all she did. Mother Theresa found her balance, and today’s gospel invites us to find our own.
I firmly believe it is prayer that grounds our lives in God. Without contemplation how do we know what we are called to do with our lives. St. Paul, through his oneness with God in the Holy Spirit, was able to embrace suffering as an act of love for the sake of the gospel. Mother Theresa too, embraced a challenging life through love. In fact, I’d think it was their profound love of God, nurtured in prayer, that turned their challenges in to joy.
As we ponder this gospel this week, let us ask the Lord to help us find the balance between contemplation and action that is right for us. In doing so, we will give purpose to our action and through them make real the presence of God, the essence of true hospitality.