16th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle C-2019

FIRST READING  Genesis 18:1-10a

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot.  Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.  When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said:  “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.  Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.  Now that you have come this close to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.”  The men replied, “Very well, do as you have said.”  Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.”  He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.  Then Abraham got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men; and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.  They asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?”  He replied, “There in the tent.”  One of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.”

SECOND READING  Colossians 1:24-28

Brothers and sisters:  Now 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, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.  But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.  It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

GOSPEL  Luke 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord, 

Our scriptural readings begin with a scene that monks and visitors to Monastery of Christ in the Desert view daily. Beneath the rocky backdrop seen through the glassed upper portion of the east wall of our refectory, where monks and visitors share meals, a spiritually rich mural adorns the wall to its base.

The mural was painted by Fr. Abbot Damian Higgins of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Redwood Valley, California.  He is an iconographer whose works are featured around the world.  He lived and worked on the mural at Monastery of Christ in the Desert between the years 2005 and 2010.

The core of the mural is Higgin’s recreation of the famous The Trinity painted by Andrei Rublev.  The original is Rublev’s most famous work and the most famous of all Russian icons, and it is regarded as one of the highest achievements of Russian art. Some Fathers of the Church as well as Eastern iconography suggest the three figures may be a manifestation of the Trinity, noting how Abraham encounters the Lord and sees three men standing before him.

The first reading today is from the Book of Genesis and is about hospitality, in other words, service, and how God works in us when we receive others. Abraham and Sarah received these three strangers.  For their goodness in receiving strangers, finally Sarah has a son, a true gift of God.  Abraham is our father in faith, Sarah our mother–and their son, Isaac, continues the line of those chosen for God in a special way.  Yet each of us is also chosen to give witness to our faith in God, no matter what the consequences may be.  And, for some the consequences may not be favorable.

In the Letter to the Colossians we witness another aspect to service; to serve, from Paul’s viewpoint, is to accept the sufferings that come to us because in that way we fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  That is truly a strong statement!  Yet, if we listen carefully to Scripture, we recognize this truth:  we are one in Christ Jesus:  it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. Our duty is to cooperate with the grace we are given:  seeking holiness, carrying our crosses.  This duty to serve, however, should not eclipse our foremost invitation to join in union with Christ.

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  Often these words are used to justify the contemplative life.  Martha is frustrated because Mary sits and listens to Jesus while she, Martha, has to do all the work.  We can wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to the Lord?  That is the invitation to each of us:  stop your business and be still and listen!  Christ reproached Martha not on account of her spirit of service but for not making him first in her attention.  Martha honored Christ through her work, and Mary through her single-minded devotion.

So all three readings today bring us back to God and the incredibly wonderful ways in which God we have the opportunity to serve Him in our daily life.  God comes as stranger, God comes as Guest, God comes in suffering and God comes in being still and listening.  Let us be attentive!