Reflection for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary time – Year C

by Fr Joseph Mafola

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The hospitality of Abraham.

One must remember that rain was scanty in that region. Whenever water can be found the land was fertile. But elsewhere the land was mostly barren if not a desert.

Hospitality then played an important role. A person asking for shelter was never turned away. To do so was tantamount to exposing the person to die of hunger and thirst. Abraham no doubt would have fulfilled his duty of hospitality towards anyone coming to him yet something in his heart told him that these men were no ordinary people. He soon discovered that they were God’s messengers. God himself accompanied by two angels.

Abraham’s hospitality was amply rewarded. God announced to him that within a year Sarah would have a son, thus fulfilling the promise he had made to him years before. In today’s Gospel, God visits another family this time in the form of man, Jesus. The family was that of Martha, Mary and Lazarus at Bethany. In that family Jesus was always received with open arms.

Then Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was leaving her to do the serving all by herself. Jesus takes the opportunity to stress an important point. “Martha, Martha you worry and fret about so many things and yet, few are needed, indeed only one.” (Lk 10:41) Jesus was not rebuking Martha for her activity. Jesus’ words, the mere repeating of her name reveals genuine love and gratefulness towards her, were it not for her concern, he and his disciples would go hungry that day.

Martha, don’t over worry on our account; a simple meal will do. Truly it is God’s will that you go through your daily duties in earnestness, as you are doing but keep in mind that the real purpose of our life is to enter God’s kingdom, to put oneself under God’s loving rule. Let not your occupation absorb you so deeply as to forget that.

The words of Jesus to Martha were not a rebuke but a reward. He helped her discover the true meaning of life; what should be the motive behind all her activity. There is an important conclusion here. When God pays us a visit and he does it so often, he never comes empty handed, his gifts far surpass the best reception we may accord to him.

Longing to save mankind God spoke to man time and again in the Old Testament to help man discover his plans of love and thus lead him to salvation. In order to save us Jesus consented to become the guest of mankind, though fully knowing the poor reception man would accord him.

Mankind did away with its guest, men killed its guest, Jesus but he rose from the dead and repaid the crime of mankind by opening to all the way to salvation. Jesus multiplies his visits to the Christian community. He makes himself present in a special way in the midst of the Christian community. When we gather to pray together, when the word of God is read or explained to us, when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. For Christ to take part in our gathering he demands that we live in brotherly union.

Jesus longs to be the guest of our families. He wants to be invited. The best invitation is family prayer based on the scriptures. We must make him fill at home. Family members must strive to keep away from serious sin. He will present such families with three precious gifts: unity, peace and joy.

Christ ought to be the permanent guest of each Christian. In his letter to the Colossians St Paul says that Christ is in their midst within the heart of each one of them. Their most intimate guest to gradually transform them into himself. It is this presence of Christ within us that gives meaning to our Christian life. Christ lives in us through the Spirit which we were given at baptism.

Christ also visits us with particular care in time of suffering. Christ is intimately joined to his Christian since he shares with them his own life. Christians in turn should live in such a way that that their life becomes one with that of Christ.

Christ suffers in each Christian that suffer, since Christians form a single body with him. Christ joins our suffering to all that he endured during his life on earth and makes it yield fruits the same fruit that his own suffering; salvation of man. He gives us strength to endure suffering, brings us consolation and puts joy in our suffering at the thought of the fruit that he makes it yield.

Hence St Paul says “it makes me happy to suffer for you as I am suffering now to make up all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body the Church.” (Col 1:24) Christ longs to be our guest for a purpose: to have us as his guests forever in heaven when we die.

Our prayer in the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 14:2-5) Lord who shall be admitted to your tent?