Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: The Power of Genuine Hospitality
By: Fr. Evaristus Abu
Homily for Sunday July 21 2019
Genesis 18:1-10, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:24-28 and Luke 10:38-42
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:41-42).
Somehow our readings today are connected with those of last Sunday. A man was attacked by robbers and left half-dead on the road. Unlike the Priest and the Levite who prioritized their own self-interest over that of the man, the Good Samaritan actually stopped, forgot about himself and ministered to the man. Today, we see Abraham playing the role of Good Samaritan to some strangers. Unknown to him, Abraham actually entertained God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Coming down to our Gospel passage, we see Mary and Martha playing Good Samaritan to Jesus and His disciples but then, something went wrong. Martha wanted Mary to help out in serving and she reported her to Jesus but to her surprise, Jesus said Mary had chosen the good portion. What did Jesus mean by that? Is there anything wrong with helping out in the kitchen? These questions bring us to our lessons for today.
One: There is Always a Reward for Kindness Shown to Strangers.
Did you notice that even without the men asking for anything, Abraham was the first to speak, asking about what he could do to help them? “My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread; that you may refresh yourselves, and after that, you may pass on…” Dear friends, this visit was a test from God and because Abraham passed it, God finally made concrete the promise of a child to him.
Very often, we wait for people to ask first before we try to help them even when we obviously perceive their needs. Like the priest and the Levite who passed the other way, we practice selective goodness, we show kindness to those we know, those most likely to reciprocate our goodness. From this experience of Abraham, God is calling us to reach out even to those who do not ask. We never can tell if we are being tested. The book of Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Two: Attitude is Everything.
There wasn’t anything wrong with what Martha was doing, but everything was wrong with the way she was doing it. Her intentions were good but her attitude was faulty. I may welcome one thousand stranded persons to my home, empty my bank account to provide food for them, but so long as I am not doing it joyfully, so long as I complain about it, so long as I announce it to make it look like I am better than others, my kindness becomes a sort of hypocrisy. No wonder Jesus said we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is giving.
Martha’s complaint was intended to put Mary in a bad light; to paint her as a lazy person. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40). When we do this, we become like that Pharisee who went to the temple to pray: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income” (Luke 18:11-12). Jesus tells us his prayer was not accepted. If the only reason why you give is to make others look bad, then your giving is in vain. If the only time you give is when there are cameras to announce it to the world, then your giving is faulty.
Consider what St. Paul says in the second reading today, “Now, I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). St. Paul did not have a bitter attitude. He found a way to rejoice despite the cross he was carrying. It is not enough that we make sacrifices for God, we must strive to avoid bitterness. God loves a cheerful giver, not a grumbling/bitter giver.
Three: Avoid Anxiety, Trust in God’s Providence.
Having spoken about Martha’s attitude, let us now examine the words Jesus said to her. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). For us to fully understand what Jesus is saying, we return to His words in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:31-33). One thing needed was to seek first the kingdom of God. This is exactly what Mary did and that is why Jesus said she has chosen the better portion.
Martha was anxious, worried and troubled. She was feared that the food may not be ready on time or might not have enough for Jesus and his guests. It is like she forgot that this was the same Jesus who fed the five thousand with just five loaves and two fishes. Her anxiety affected her level of faith, it filled her heart with fear and doubt. This is exactly what happens when we become too busy with the work of God that we forget God Himself. For instance, when I as a priest become so engrossed with performing my priestly duties, to the extent that I no longer create time for personal prayers or meditation, I fall into the anxiety trap. I lose touch with God and overwork myself forgetting that success depends on God not in my efforts.
Luke tells us that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” The root cause of anxiety is distraction. To be distracted is to shift focus from what is most important thereby reducing the overall quality of our output. Imagine driving on a high way and typing a text message at the same time. Mary choose the good portion not simply because she sat down at Jesus’ feet, but because she gave undivided attention to Jesus. We can actively do God’s work like Martha and it will be equivalent to Mary’s good portion so long as we are focused on God alone and not on ourselves.
There are countless blessings that come to us from being kind to strangers. Many have lost golden opportunities in life just because they refused to help when they came across people with genuine needs. Our help, however, must not be forced, pretentious, nor come from a bitter heart. The story of Mary and Martha has often been explained in terms of the two types of spirituality (the active versus the contemplative) but beyond that, Jesus actually used this occasion to highlight the dangers of distraction and anxiety. Only one thing is needed: Seek first the Kingdom of God!
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, free me from all bitterness and comparison with others, Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C. Bible Study: Genesis 18:1-10, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:24-28 and Luke 10:38-42).