Both Martha and Mary represent hospitality
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 17, 2022
The main theme of the readings this Sunday, on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is hospitality. Three weeks ago, I noted in my homily that we set off with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where his paschal mystery awaits him — his suffering death and resurrection. This is the point in Luke’s Gospel, where the Lord turns to the south. In this part of Luke’s Gospel, he heads towards the holy city of Jerusalem away from his native place of Nazareth and where he performed his early ministry around the sea of Galilee. He goes South to Judea and Jerusalem, and he brings his disciples with him on this journey, on this pilgrimage. And intentionally the church has us join them on this journey ourselves as modern-day disciples, learning the same lessons the Lord taught his first disciples on the road to Jerusalem.
So the last three weeks we’ve learned these things. First of all, this journey is for us and our salvation. The Lord is not doing this for himself. He’s doing this for us because we need it. We learned that making this journey must be our number one priority if we are to be saved from sin and death, which is its point. It’s reason this journey takes place is to free us from sin and death but if we don’t make it our number one priority we’ll fall along the wayside and not complete this pilgrimage.
We’ve learned that the harvest of humanity in need of salvation is abundant, and the laborers are few and we’re called to be among those laborers to bring in the harvest. We learned that the Lord is equipping us and empowering us to assist him. That we must learn to love the Lord with our whole heart, our being, and our strength, and our neighbor as ourself. These are the lessons so far we’ve learned along the way.
Today’s lesson, as we stop with the Lord to stay at the home of his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, is hospitality. If you look up the definition of hospitality, you will find these words: hospitality is a cordial and generous reception of guests. The Latin word for guest is hospice, therefore hospitality. Many, many, in fact most of the words in our English language have Latin roots, by the way.
What does this mean? What does this have to do with our journey to Jerusalem and the Lord’s paschal mystery? Well, actually a great deal. It’s at the heart of all three readings this Sunday. In our first reading from Genesis, Abraham and Sarah welcome three men and provide them hospitality and they turn out to be angels in disguise. They’re at the terebinth of Mamre, and they come to bring the Lord’s good news that Sarah will have a son in her old age.
In our second reading, Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians, rejoices even to share in Christ sufferings, because he knows he’s been welcomed by Jesus Christ and that Christ lives in him now and he is bringing him from death to new and everlasting life. He utters that famous line, that he’s filling up in his own body, completing the sufferings of Christ for good of the church. There’s really nothing lacking in Jesus’ suffering on the cross, by the way. The only thing lacking is our participation in it. That’s the point he’s making.
And then in Luke’s Gospel we have this scene in the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Where Jesus is welcome and provided hospitality. Hospitality is absolutely essential in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ because it is the way God lives. The reason we exist is because God makes room in his life for us. That’s hospitality. His love is selfless, and his love is generous. We also need to learn hospitality because we are God’s children made in his image and likeness to share in his divine life, to live as he lives. So, it’s essential to the life of a disciple.
Second hospitality is both active and passive. Martha impersonates, she represents the active side of hospitality — serving and preparing food. Even though the Lord corrects her in the Gospel, it’s not that she is doing something wrong. That’s not it, but it’s less important than giving our full attention to our guests, which is what Mary is doing. Mary is fully focused on the Lord and present to him, listening to him. So, both Martha and Mary represent hospitality but Mary in the fullest sense.
And hospitality is to be shown to God and to others in the Christian life. How do we show hospitality to God? Well, by stopping to pray every day. By worshipping him. By making room for him in our lives. And then to our guests, anyone that we come across, we are to extend God’s hospitable, generous love.
Saint Benedict, whose feast day we had on Monday, is perhaps one of the best examples of this. It’s a virtue that he speaks of in his rule of life for Benedictine monks and sisters. We are this afternoon this morning, once again with the Lord in the Eucharist where he shows us the most lavish hospitality of all, nourishing us with his body broken in his blood poured out for the life of the world. We are also in the midst of that with him on the road to Jerusalem and we realize once again as we join those first disciples how much he loves us and wants to save us from sin and death.
He wants us to complete this pilgrimage with him to the holy city. And to do this is to establish and come to the one necessary thing. The one thing we truly need which is life with him, union with him. Today’s lesson to keep us open to his presence in our lives is hospitality. It’s a great Christian virtue. One the Lord shows us perfectly, as he poured himself out for us, pours himself out for us once again in the Eucharist.