Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 17, 2016 — Jesus said, “There is need of only one thing.” — God comes as stranger, God comes as Guest, God comes in suffering

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 108

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Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer (c.1655).

(The desire to listen to God cannot be substituted by other activity)

Reading 1 GN 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.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 15:2-3, 3-4, 5

R. (1a) He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
One who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
One who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Reading 2 COL 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.

AlleluiaCF. LK 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and bring a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 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.”

From The Abbot in the Desert


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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  —  often these words are used to justify the contemplative life, but actually they are not about that at all or at least not directly.  Instead, Jesus is inviting all of us to choose the better part:  Listen to Him and don’t get so caught up in doing everything else!

The first reading today is from the Book of Genesis and is about hospitality and how God works in us when we receive others.  This scene became famous in the icon of Rublev, and became of symbol of the Holy Trinity.  We Christians should always be aware that whenever we receive anyone, we receive Christ Himself.  We are happy to do that when the one we receive is not a problem!  But when a guest becomes a problem, we have a real challenge to recognize Christ present.

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 happens.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Colossians.  Here it is clear that there is another aspect to hospitality, to receiving others, and that aspect 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.

The Gospel of Luke today brings us back to the account of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.  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!

So all three readings today bring us back to God and the incredibly wonderful ways in which God is present in our normal 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!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip


Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 JULY 2016, 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 18:1-10; COL 1:24-28; LK 10:38-42  ]

In the first reading, we read that as soon as Abraham saw the Lord, he said, “I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by.”  This request of his should be that of every one of us as well.  His words are pertinent to us all.  How tragic and unfortunate that many of us allow the Lord to pass us by again and again.

When does He pass us by?

The Lord passes us by when, amidst the busyness of our work and family responsibilities, we take our eyes off Him.  Quite often, we get so caught up in our work and the demands of family life that we hardly have any time or quality time to become aware of His presence in our activities.  Some of us let the Lord slip past us because of too much entertainment and socializing. When the body succumbs to the pleasures of life and when the inner voice is drowned by music, drinking and noise, our hearts become deaf to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

But most ironically, those of us who allow the Lord to pass us by are in active ministry.  Those of us in active ministry in Church know that the burden of responsibilities, the demands made on us, on our time and resources and struggles in our own personal integration, make us also lose sight of the Lord.  This was certainly the case for Martha.  She was busy doing many things for the Lord.  As a consequence, she did not have time to sit at the Lord’s feet like Mary.  Although the Lord was right there in her presence, her preoccupation with the mundane things of life took her away from Him.  Is that not the case with most of us as well?

The second factor that causes the Lord to pass us by is when we seek to do our own will and our own things rather than to do His will.  We think we are doing the work of the Lord because we are engaged in doing good works or involved in Church-related activities.  The truth is that even though what we do is commendable, it is possible that we are not fulfilling the Lord’s desire and plan for us. To serve the Lord is not about doing things on our own terms and according to our own preferences, but according to His will.  Otherwise we would only be fulfilling our own needs, serving our own will, ego and personal interests.  This again was the pitfall that Martha fell into.  Although what she did for the Lord, fussing over Him and making Him feel comfortable and at home, was a hospitable thing to do for her guest, yet she failed to realize that what her guest really wanted was not material comfort but friendship and inter-personal relationship.  But Martha was not available.  She was not listening.  She had no space in her heart for Him.

Are we not like her as well? We like to do many things for the Lord and even for our friends.  We pursue so many activities with passion, activities, projects, talks, retreats and ministry. This is also true even in relationships with our loved ones.  We like to do things for them.  We buy them gifts, dine them in fine restaurants, arrange for holidays in exotic places, but we never have time to listen to their aspirations, their joys and sorrows and burdens in their hearts.   And when our loved ones lament that we do not love them, we feel hurt and resentful because we think they are ingrates.  Again we fail to realize that although we appear to be serving them, in actual fact we are not, because sometimes what they need most is our time, not our things, our love and attention, not what we can do for them.

Indeed, this is where we can learn from the hospitality of Abraham.   Unlike Martha, he was sensitive to what the Lord wanted in his tiredness.  When he saw the three men, and knowing how hot the weather was, he offered them water, food and rest.  He was perceptive of their needs: “A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction. They replied, ‘Do as you say.’”  Are we perceptive of what the Lord is asking of us?  Are we giving Him what we want or what He wants of us?  Mary too was sensitive to the needs of Jesus.  She gave Him her full devotion and attention for she knew that what Jesus wanted most then was to have her share in His joys and sorrows, His vision and mission.

The third reason why the Lord passes us by is because we are more preoccupied with ourselves than with Him.  Underlying all that we do for Him, we need to check our real motives of serving Him.  Is what we are doing truly for the love of Him and of His people, or more out of insecurity and the desire to protect our interests?  Even serving God in the Church could be unconsciously motivated by power, material gains or self-glory.  We want approval and recognition.  We seek popularity and control over people.  We want to feel good about ourselves.  Wasn’t this the case of Martha?  She wanted attention and approval from the Lord.  She was not so much concerned about the Lord as about Him noticing her, and hopefully commending her for her great hospitality, and perhaps praising her over Mary who, she complained, was “leaving me to do the serving all by myself?”

The fourth reason is that we are tired, overworked and do not have sufficient rest.  When we do not take care of our health, our spiritual life will also suffer as grace works in and through nature.  If we abuse our bodies and do not respect its constitution, we cause injury to our bodily system.  Weighed down by bodily weaknesses and limitations, we too will not be able to give the due attention to God, especially in prayer or in service to people, because the spirit might be willing but the flesh is weak. Even Jesus, in today’s gospel, also recognized His need to take a break, to recuperate.  Without physical rest, we will not be able to make ourselves available to the Lord nor for His people.

How then can we cooperate with the grace of God so that the Lord will not pass us by?

The psalmist reminds us that we must live in the presence of the Lord. Indeed, if the Lord passes us by, most of the time it is our sins that blind us from seeing Him.  If we want to see the Lord, we must first put our house in order by purifying ourselves from sin and resolving to live a life of charity, justice and integrity. Sin and the holiness of God are incompatible.  Either the Holy Spirit lives in us or we allow sin to dwell in us.

Secondly, we must take heed of Jesus’ advice to Martha, which is to choose the better part. Yes, spending time with the Lord must take priority over everything else.  The Lord prefers our company than to have us work for Him.   He wants us to draw strength from Him alone in whatever we do; to acquire a portion of His Spirit so that we too can confidently minister in the power of the same Spirit.  By choosing the Lord first above ministry, it shows that our ministry is rooted in His love for us and not stemming from a need for acceptance.

St Paul in the second reading shares with us his secret and the basis for His ministry.  If we were to be good servants of the Lord, we too must, like St Paul, begin by first contemplating on the mystery of God’s plan of salvation for us in Christ Jesus.  When we have grasped the wisdom and the depth of God’s love and mercy revealed to us in Christ, then we too will be excited in wanting to lead all men and women to Him.  Everything that we do is then focused on Christ as the end and the goal.

Like Sarah, whose love for God bore the fruit of a child to accomplish the plan of God for humanity, so too our love for Christ and His presence in us and with us will bring about the realization of His plan for all humanity. In this way, through Christ and in Christ, God will be all in all.  And we can indeed say that He has not passed us by.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 17, 2016 — Jesus said, “There is need of only one thing.” — God comes as stranger, God comes as Guest, God comes in suffering”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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