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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 18, 2010

Abraham’s example of hospitality to the three strangers sets up our imagination to look at Mary and Martha’s style of welcome to Jesus. We meet Abraham directly after he promises obedience to God’s covenant while he is resting after circumcising himself. Three foreigners pass by Abraham’s camp and he begs them to stop for rest and nourishment. Abraham does not eat with them but waits on them while they eat. For his goodness, Abraham is rewarded by these men with a prophecy that his wife, Sarah, well beyond her child-bearing years, will bear a son within the next year. Abraham is upholding the revered custom in the ancient world to welcome the foreigner for everyone is a pilgrim at one time or another in life. One can never know when an angel of the Lord God may appear.

Just as Abraham spends precious time with these three strangers, we find Mary and Martha attending, at varying degrees, to the words of Jesus. We often highlight the differing approaches they take – Martha, the ever-responsible one who makes events move smoothly, and Mary, the one who is enraptured by the words of Jesus and becomes a model for contemplative life. Mary’s way gets the nod from Jesus, but it does not resolve the tension as both ways are necessary for hospitality. We must prepare for our guests and when they arrive, it is time to relax with them. Martha feels too responsible to relax because Mary shirks her duties leaving too great of a burden on her. Maybe we do not understand fully the message Luke intends, but common sense will tell us that both ways have to be integrated if we are to be truly hospitable. However, Abraham shows us that it is key to offer the choicest welcome we can to foreigners. We just do not know the unexpected surprises that await us – for when we give generously, we also seem to get back much more than we ever gave. It is quite a paradox.

How well do we receive people into our lives? We wouldn’t dare invite foreigners to our homes mostly because of security concerns, especially in a litigious society. Regretfully, we don’t even want them in our country. Our schedules are often horrific as they are so cluttered with many details that we often don’t get the chance to relax. If we can’t take care of ourselves, we will not be able to tend to the needs of others. Reflect upon the last time you have invited someone over to your house. We scarcely invite our friends over anymore. Many people would rather meet out at a coffee house or a restaurant because it is more convenient, safer, and we can control the amount of time we allot for the gathering, and then we have to debate over who is going to pay this time. But on those times in which we do invite someone over for a leisurely conversation, it is good if we learn a lesson from Abraham, Martha, and Mary. They did all they could to make the person feel honored. They listened well to their guests and were thereby enriched. It is only when we slow down within ourselves that we are truly able to receive the other person and we exponentially receive much more than we could ever give. Life is too short to fill up with so many activities. Learn to receive another with grace. You will be more than satisfied.

Quote for the Week

From Abraham Lincoln:

During the darkest days of the Civil War, the hopes of the Union nearly died. When certain goals seemed unreachable, the leaders of the Union turned to President Abraham Lincoln for solace, guidance and hope. Once, when a delegation called at the White House and detailed a long list of crisis facing our nation, Lincoln told this story:

Years ago, a young friend and I were out one night when a shower of meteors fell from the clear November sky. The young man was frightened, but I told him to look up in the sky past the shooting stars to the "fixed" stars beyond, shining serene in the firmament, and I said, "let us not mind the meteors, but let us keep our eyes on the stars.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Micah dialogues with the Lord God to find out what is required to gain good favor of God. The answer is: Do the right, love goodness, and walk humbly with God. He appeals to God to shepherd the people because there is no other God as good and caring. Jeremiah is called from his priestly family to be a prophet. This was his calling from the womb. He is called to help rebellious Israel return to its covenantal fidelity. When the people return, all will be restored and their memories will be only of the good actions of God and the people. To reform their ways, they must turn away from Ba’al, keep the commandments, care for the orphans and the poor, and welcome the foreigner.

Gospel: The scribes and Pharisees ask for a sign of the origin of the power of Jesus and he calls to mind the story of the people of Jonah who repented merely at his words. Jesus then establishes the family of the kingdom by declaring blood lines no longer matter; those who do the will of God belong to this new family. He tells the parable of the sower and urges the people to take heart to what he is saying about accepting his teaching. He further urges patience because sometimes the good seed is planting among weeds and we must take care that we do not extinguish the harvest of that good seed.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Apollinaris, bishop and martyr, was the first bishop of Ravenna appointed by Peter during the reign of Claudius and Vespasian. He was repeatedly exiled and tortured, but he continued to preach the Gospel during his difficult times.

Wednesday: Lawrence di Brindisi, priest and Doctor, was a scholarly Capuchin priest in Verona, Italy whose ministry spanned the year 1575 to 1619. As a scripture scholar he served as a diplomat and missionary and was commissioned by the Pope to convert Jews to Christianity and to combat the spread of Protestantism.

Thursday: Mary Magdalene, apostle, is called the “Apostle to the Apostles” because she was the first witness to the Resurrection. She was moved to anoint the dead body of Jesus by bringing ointment to the tomb on Easter morning. Scriptural references portray her as being a faithful disciple to Jesus and as a woman who was cured fully (with perfection) of seven demons.

Friday: Bridget of Sweden, religious, founded the Bridgettine Order for men and women in 1370, though today only the women’s portion has survived. She desired to live in a lifestyle defined by prayer and penance. Her husband of 28 years died after producing eight children with Bridget. She then moved to Rome to begin the new order.

Saturday: Sharbel Makluf, priest, joined a monastery in the Maronite tradition and lived as a hermit for 23 years after living fifteen years in the community. He became known for his wisdom and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Jul 18, 1973. The death of Fr. Eugene P Murphy. Under his direction the Sacred Heart Hour, which was introduced by Saint Louis University in 1939 on its radio station [WEW], became a nationwide favorite.
• Jul 19, 1767. At Naples, Prime Minister Tannic, deprived the Jesuits of the spiritual care of the prisoners, a ministry that they had nobly discharged for 158 years.
• Jul 20, 1944. An abortive plot against Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and his allies resulted in the arrest of Fr. Alfred Delp.
• Jul 21, 1773. In the Quirinal Palace, Rome, the Brief for the suppression of the Society was signed by Clement XIV.
• Jul 22, 1679. The martyrdom at Cardiff, Wales, of St Phillip Evans.
• Jul 23, 1553. At Palermo, the parish priests expressed to Fr. Paul Achilles, rector of the college, indignation that more than 400 persons had received Holy Communion in the Society's church, rather than in their parish churches.
• Jul 24, 1805. In Maryland, Fr. Robert Molyneux was appointed the first superior by Father General Gruber.

Mary Magdalene

Each year as I approach the Memorial of Mary Magdalene, I wonder how she will be treated by preachers and the church. The fact is we know so little about her, but we conflate various stories of “Marys” into the tale of Mary Magdalene and we fill our mind with a distorted view. I do wish we knew more, but sometimes knowing less can help our prayers. Some attempts have been made to rehabilitate her reputation. The best we can do is to get in touch with our scriptural tradition and learn from our tradition. It will help us gain better perspective into our church and our saints and we will feel much more secure in the mystery that is our church.

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