16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (17th July)

16th SundayAbraham dozes in the sun outside his tent and ‘the Lord appeared to him’. Who actually appeared to him were three weary travellers. In accordance with the custom of his culture, Abraham hurries to welcome them and offer hospitality. This he does very generously. As they eat, one of the visitors almost casually asks about Sarah and makes the promise of the birth of a son. And eavesdropping Sarah laughs. It is all so ordinary, yet this promise is a very significant moment in the story of Jahweh and the chosen people.

Where and how does the Lord appear to us?

In the gospel we have another domestic scene. Jesus is a guest in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha, doing the cooking, begins to fret and get upset, and irritated with Mary. It is hard to believe that Jesus’ comment could be a reproof for being up and doing. Surely that is perfectly good and necessary. Maybe the comment is not about being busy but about ‘fretting’. Maybe it is not a reproof but just raising a flag to alert Martha to what is happening. I imagine Martha is very well used to cooking a meal and this is not the first she has prepared for Jesus. So why does she get anxious? Does Jesus’ remark about only one thing being necessary refer to the meal? Is Martha getting upset because she is not satisfied with providing an adequate and acceptable meal but is trying to do something ‘special’, a ‘perfect’ meal, not only to provide nourishment and pleasure for her guest but to get approval or praise, to ‘shine’ a little?
Is the ego-self intruding and threatening to take over? Her impatience with Mary would come from the same source. Mary, absorbed in listening to Jesus, has totally forgotten self. That is the better part.

Sr Genevieve Mooney O.P.

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