Homily of the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 17)
Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 17)
Today I want to talk to you about the other side of the coin that we looked at last week – the active Christian, the do-er. We saw last week that Luke grouped together two stories that in a sense comment on one another. In the first, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan and tells the lawyer, to whom he is telling the story, to go out and do the same to his neighbor. Christians are, by Jesus’ own words, people who ‘do’, who take action, to see that our neighbors are treated with mercy and justice.
This week, though we can another picture which we have seen reflected in Jesus own life as well. It begins for us today with the first reading from Genesis where we see Abraham rewarded for allowing the servants of God to stop and rest, Abraham wants them to refresh themselves. Abraham’s reward for giving them food and rest was to be given a son in his old age.
Notice that Abraham, the Father of a great nation, has become a servant to these men.
Paul, too, today talks about his becoming a servant for the sake of the Church. Paul becomes a servant and even suffers to complete what might be lacking in Christ’s own sufferings.
The Gospel then completes the story and gives us the Christian point of view, but note that it is the other side of the “action for Christ” coin.
Following immediately from Jesus’ advice to the lawyer to go out and take action, here Jesus comes to the conclusion that Mary, the sister, who was not acting as a servant, and was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening and relaxing, had made the better decision. Martha who was busily preparing for the guests, “distracted by her many tasks”, goes to Jesus basically to complain about the laziness of her sister. Although it may have been a valid complaint, it was really quite a social faux pas to complain to a guest about it, to begin with.
But Jesus was quite clear that he would not tell Mary to leave, for she had chosen the better part. Mary was so busy, she hadn’t the time to hear Jesus’ word.
These two stories from last week and this week, Luke tells side by side. They comment on each other, and in so doing, show both sides of the Christian dilemma. If listening is the better part, why bother doing the action? This dichotomy has created some interesting historical anomalies. We have monks on poles who sit all day contemplating God’s word. We have activists who march for justice and fight for equality. Does Jesus really say it’s better to sit on a flagpole and meditate?
The answer is the coin itself with two sides. Neither side is enough in itself. The Christian has to take the time to read, hear the Word of God, reflect on it… but then must act on it. Do any of you feel guilty when we pray for people in some catastrophe, but don’t help out by donating to it? I do. Do some people get so involved in church activity that they are over-involved and have no time for their own listening because they are teaching a class, ushering, rushing around to get things ready, running this or that committee – angry because they see another just sit there and do nothing.
It is all balance. You can see how, taken out of context, Jesus’ words can promote either of those things, but this is why Luke places the stories side by side – so that we can see that balance that is needed. If Martha didn’t make the meal, they’d all starve. But she needs to temper that with some relaxation at the feet of Jesus with her sister. Mary has put first things first, and is learning from the Master himself, but she also needs to see that she can’t always be there and that she needs to be a servant to others as well.
So, today I ask you to look for balance in your life. Examine your activity and inactivity this week. Are you too preoccupied with any one thing – a video game, television, housecleaning, outside work? Then take some time to relax – under a tree maybe, like Abraham’s guests, and ponder what is important in your life.
If you find you are relaxing too much (not something which happens too often in our busy, crazy world today) perhaps you need to find a way to take some action for others, volunteer some time at a food bank, organize a Bible study, come in and clean our Church closet! It doesn’t matter what you do, but Christ asks us today, to listen to his Word and to be a servant to our neighbor. Let’s evaluate this week how well we are doing at that!
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and pastor of St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]