Today’s Thoughts: In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we encounter a story which emphasizes the transcendence of God and the tenderness of this God’s embrace of our humanity.
Abraham is resting in the late afternoon and he encounters three visitors. He didn’t see them or hear them coming, they seem to have just appeared. From his immediate actions of welcome, we assume that Abraham did not have many visitors or he would have soon run out of cattle and run his wife to an early grave.
Abraham invites his guests to be treated by Sarah’s hard labors and he seems to entertain the guests while dinner is being prepared. After dinner, one of the guests asks where Sarah is. When told, the guest foretells a promise. The guest knows the name of Abraham’s wife and blesses her, even though she is advanced in years, she will receive the ultimate blessing for those times, a son.
God knows, God visits, and God makes promises and keeps them. The transcendence and the tenderness of God plays out in our story of Abraham and Sarah. A few questions we might ask are, was God good to Abraham, because he and Sarah were so welcoming? Does God come to bless, because of us or because of Who God is? It is quite impractical for Sarah to have a child at her age, but a very practical promise is made. This kind of story helps us to encounter the mystery of God.
Abraham and Sarah had to trust what they heard. Sarah is not rewarded for being the good wife and cook. She is blessed to have a child, because of God’s love. She might have been thinking that God was angry with her and so she could not be blessed with motherhood. Is God good only when we have been good, welcoming, keeping the traditions and laws? These are the ancient questions which have modern echoes.
The Gospel is a rather simple little story, but within it are some very important features of God and what is expects of us. Jesus is welcomed. Martha is doing the practical things of getting a proper meal ready for Jesus, her guest. Mary is doing nothing except listening. Martha complains about her sister lack of help. Jesus responds with something simple and important. End of story.
Luke presents Jesus as a model for his disciples whom he has sent out relying on the hospitality of others and thereby, relying on God. Luke presents Martha as the righteous welcomer who does the practical things according to the Jewish religious and cultural ways. Luke presents Mary as a person of the Good News. She does the impractical thing of “listening to him speak.” She has chosen “the better part”, which is allowing the Good News to be heard.
The story of last week’s Gospel, the Good Samaritan, immediately comes before these final verses of this chapter in Luke’s Gospel. The reader or listener to the Gospel would understand that the very practical thing the “Good Samaritan” did, is what everybody would have to do if they sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to the whole Gospel. Martha is righteous by her expressing her religious traditions. Luke is presenting Mary as how each of us continues the life of Jesus, by listening and then getting up and doing all that the Gospel of Luke has offered.
This is not a family dispute, a sibling rivalry, but a call to a radical way of living. We so easily listen to what we want to hear. What Jesus is saying in all the Gospels is not exactly all we want to hear. Jesus’ conversation with us, if we listen, will change, convert us and we would rather “get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.” We would rather justify ourselves by listening to our ways and doing our thing in the hope that God would be pleased and satisfied.
It would be interesting to underline all the verses in the Gospels which we find hard and or inconvenient. The Gospel would probably get quite a bit shorter if we were to be so selective. The verses we would underline are the ones we don’t want to hear, because they call us to change images of ourselves, of others, of life and of God. The really good news is that Jesus just keeps at it, speaking to us in the pages of the Gospels, in the stories he tells, in the experiences he has. Jesus has waiting for us to tune in, to listen and to respond by living our life with trust and hope in God.
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...