Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (16 & 17/7/22)

posted 18 Jul 2022, 01:19 by Parish Office

On first glance, the theme running through today’s first reading and Gospel seems to be one of hospitality. But it goes a little deeper, in that it’s to do with hospitality towards the Lord. In the first reading, it says that three men come to visit, and also that it was the Lord that visited – an early indication of the Most Holy Trinity: one God, three persons. In the Gospel, it’s the incarnate second person of the Most Holy Trinity, Our Lord Jesus Christ. On neither occasion is He told to go away because He hasn’t made an appointment, or they are too busy at the moment. In Abraham’s case, they quickly set to work to produce a meal for the Lord. In the case of Martha and Mary, we only hear about three people there, but there may have been others, or there may not. Our Lord’s visit may have been expected, or it may have happened without prior notice. But the preparations, good in and of themselves, turn out to be a distraction for Martha. I don’t know whether it has ever happened in your family that someone has been rather “put to the test” by a certain guest, leading to the odd cross word or two. It can be embarrassing sometimes. But poor Martha loses her cool with the Lord, a bit like the disciples when they were in the boat that they thought was going to be flooded in the storm, whilst the Lord was asleep. Martha says something similar: “do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving by myself?” Fancy saying that to the Lord. Presumably, normally, she wouldn’t have spoken to Him like that. But in the heat of all her annoyance, those are the words that she uses. Human nature hasn’t changed.

When someone shouts at us, it can be easy instinctively to shout back without even thinking. But the Lord retains His composure, and calmly tells Martha that she is going a bit over the top with the preparations and has lost the focus. He is not saying that food and other arrangements are unimportant; what He is saying is that these things shouldn’t be so exaggerated in importance that the whole point of them, looking after our Guest, is lost sight of. So the day won’t be a complete failure and disaster if the chicken gets slightly overdone, or someone puts the olives on the wrong side of the table. She needs to be there beside the Lord as well.

There can be various tensions in our lives, and things that we need to keep in balance: the time we spend on our families, our work, and also the Lord. Sometimes people say they are too busy to get to Mass, and this being “too

busy” persists, week after week. When they get to the pearly gates, will St Peter say to them that he is “too busy” to see them now, because he has so many other people to see instead? There’s a message for us all here today in this Gospel, about the need to simplify our lives and make more time for the Lord.

On two days each year, we are required to fast: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as practising abstinence from meat each Friday (unless of course it’s a special feast day, such as Christmas, for example). Fast meals are fast for at least two reasons: they are fast to prepare and fast to eat, because the food is simple and there isn’t much on the plate. But that time saved can then be used for other things, including the Lord.

Fasting isn’t always an easy thing to do, and some struggle even with abstinence from meat. In the second reading, St Paul begins by saying, “It makes me happy to suffer for you…” - he is happy to undergo a bit of hardship for the sake of others, and to “offer it up” for their spiritual welfare. Fasting and abstinence are things we can offer up for the good of others. But even when we can’t do that, there are still smaller penances that we can do, without people necessarily noticing, such as choosing our second choice for dinner rather than what we would have preferred. Or we can tie that into when we are catering for others, going for what they would prefer, rather than our own favourite. In serving others, we serve Christ, just like Martha. There is of course the saying:

“Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener at every conversation.”

It’s a good reminder.

So when we next have someone or a group of people around to visit, let’s make sure that we see the Lord in every guest, even the most difficult ones, and always make time for the Lord, no matter how busy we are.