16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 21, 2019

First reading: Gen. 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: 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.

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.”

In other words Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (VCR, Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City)

The years immediately after Vatican II—from the mid-1960s onwards—much anxiety arose from what was being taught not so much by the official Church but by theologians and Church ministers who were influenced by post-conciliar confusion. Contradictory voices wanted to be heard. One area where this confusion was felt was in the teaching on the love of God and service to one’s neighbor (prayer and action; the horizontal and the vertical) placed in contrast with each other, as if they were two diametrically opposed realities.

The confusion stemmed from questions such as these: Is the time spent with God in prayer time lost because it could have been used in service to others? Do we really need to spend time in prayer or is commitment to service of others enough? Is it really true that service to my neighbor is already prayer? In the confusion, a good number believed that there was really no need to set aside a time of prayer because one’s commitment to serve others was enough. I know many of my contemporaries, some acquaintances among religious congregations and the diocesan clergy believed in this new understanding of one’s relationship with God. After years of social involvement, they left the priesthood and the religious life. They became victims of this confusion.

Twenty centuries of Christian life have taught us that the changes in the life of the Church happen like a pendulum. Something pushes the pendulum to swing one way and the other and then back to where it was before; but after some time the pendulum again rests in the middle. Today, the pendulum about the issue of prayer and social activism is still oscillating but it is obvious that after years of confusion, the pendulum is about to rest again in the middle.

Today, nobody speaks anymore about that contrast between the love of God and one’s commitment to social activism. The example of many saints has made us realize that the essential, as our Gospel today says, is our rapport with God, our experience of God’s love which urges us to love others and thus commit ourselves to the service of our neighbors.

The love of God is like the sap of a tree that brings life to its leaves and fruits. Without this sap the tree cannot have leaves, much less fruits. One’s commitment to service for others which does not flow from the love of God does not have any significance. The more one loves God, the more one commits to the service of others; the more one is rooted in God’s love, the more one will commit totally to service for others. Today’s gospel is right when it says: “Only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her.”

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word