16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Gn 18:1-10a, Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5, Col 1:24-28, Gospel: Lk 10:38-42
Test Question – Who is Holier?
Are you ready for a test today? Often times when I ask that question it puts people on edge. They quickly get a worried look on their face, because they know that they are about to be put on the spot. Don’t panic today however, because while I have a question for you, I am not going to put you on the spot.
Blessed Mother Teresa – Busybody for Jesus
Who do you think is holier? Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta or St. Joseph? Some of you might answer Blessed Mother Theresa – because she worked tirelessly to provide for the needs of the poor, the sick and the abandoned in the streets of Calcutta and all over the world. She slept very little, some biographers saying only 4 hours a night so that she could devote as much of her life as possible to begging for, caring for and loving the poor and afflicted of the world.
St. Joseph – Sleep is the way to sanctity
On the other hand, we have the model of St. Joseph – who in the early part of St. Matthews Gospel spends a great deal of time sleeping. He was sleeping when the angel came to him and told him not to divorce Mary but to take her as his wife. He was sleeping again when the angel asked him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt to flee Herod, and yes, you guessed it – he was sleeping again when the Angel told him that it was okay to return back to Israel after the death of Herod. So who is holier? Blessed Mother Teresa, or St. Joseph.
It is a trick question
They both are – it is a trick question. The important part to remember is that both St. Joseph and Blessed Mother Teresa encountered God in their lives. For Blessed Mother Teresa, she encountered Christ in each one of the people that she knelt down to care for. For St. Joseph, he was prepared, and open to encounter God, and to respond to God even during his rest times.
The readings today describe how four different people encountered God, and there are four different spiritualities that we can learn from in these encounters.
Abraham – the model of generosity
Christian Scripture scholars have understood that the three men that Abraham encounters in the first reading to be the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. When Abraham encounters God, he encounters Him from a heart filled with gratitude. Abraham understands that all that he has is a great gift from God, that he is rich thanks to God, and that God gave him these gifts so that he could share them with Others.
When the Blessed Trinity encounters Abraham, he goes out of his way to invite them to share in his blessings. First, he offers them a place in the shade, then some water to cool their feet. Then he scampers off behind his tent, picks out the finest calf, and asks Sarah to make some fresh bread from the finest flour – to share with his guests. Abraham delights in sharing his blessings with others – this is his spirituality of encounter that maybe we can learn from today, a spirituality that is rooted in that profound understanding that everything that we have is a gift given to us by God to be shared with the world. Where in your life do you practice the spirituality of gratitude so that you can encounter Christ?
Martha – Encountering Christ in the work of service
In the Gospel today we see the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Throughout the ages, Martha gets a bad rap because she whines a little to Jesus. Let us look again at the Gospel – It is Martha who welcomes Jesus into her house. It is Martha who dives into the busy-ness of caring for Jesus and his disciples who descended upon his house. Her downfall (which is slight) is that she gets a little distracted and overwhelmed with all the work of taking care of the guests. How many of us are Martha’s helping around our parish – like the women in the Altar and Rosary society, or the various Mens groups here who are always busy about the work of caring for the needs of the parish. Perhaps we live this spirituality the best when we are preparing for and carrying out our Fiesta – busy as bees. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was like St. Martha in the sense that she worked tirelessly for the Gospel, even though for 40 years she did not enjoy the consolation of Gods presence as a tangible experience in her life. She knew who God was, and he had revealed to her who she would become, so it was this experience that kept her faithful to the path that she knew God had called her to encounter him through.
Mary – A Eucharistic spirituality
Another form of encounter spirituality is that practiced by Martha’s sister Mary. When Jesus comes into her house, Mary drops everything to pay attention to him, to be with him, to listen to him and learn from him. She recognizes that the Word made Flesh – God become Man, the Truth of the Love of God had come into her home, and she was so captivated, rapt with love for him that she was transfixed. It was as if she were a dry sponge soaking up the moisture. Mary’s spirituality is a spirituality of presence. She recognized the goodness of the Lord’s presence and chose to rest in it. This is why Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better portion – because he knows that she is encountering his eternal being. We too have the opportunity to practice Mary’s spirituality of presence here at St. Anthony’s on Tuesday nights at 6PM when we have a couple of hours of Eucharistic Adoration. St. John Vianney once spoke with a Farmer who spent some time in Adoration each day – he asked him – what do you do when you are with the Lord and the Farmer replied “I look at him, and he looks at me.” This farmer witnessed to St. John his practice of presence with God.
St. Paul – Encountering Christ in Suffering
We now turn to the second reading for perhaps the most difficult spirituality of encountering Christ. St. Paul says in this reading “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church”. How do we encounter Christ in the saddest moments of our lives, when we are sick, or suffering loss or grief. Even there in the depths of our despair and struggle Christ is with us, and walks with us. St. Paul was able to find Joy in these moments because he understood the true meaning and triumph of the Cross. The witness of God’s love and action in his life – that it could take him in such a wretched state and free him, transform him from a persecutor of the Church to a Martyr, a witness in his blood of the Love of Jesus. We have many people here who are struggling with sin and sadness, sickness and death. St. Paul’s witness to us is that even here God is present, and God can be encountered.
God provides us with many ways and opportunities to encounter him this week. The question is, will our hearts be open to him when he comes to us?