16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: 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.”

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. Benigno Beltran, SVD (Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City)

In the first reading, Abraham ministered to his three guests, and one of them prophesied that his wife Sarah will have a child in the next year. In the second reading, St. Paul said he is a minister of the Church according to God’s stewardship to bring to completion the word of God. Martha in the Gospel was burdened with much serving as she ministered to Jesus and his companions. Ministry is an essential issue in a Church founded by Someone who said he did not come to be served but to serve, and who at the Last Supper, took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples. One would think that Jesus was rebuking Martha for being obsessively practical, while he praised Mary as being more spiritual. One might also get the impression that it is more important to “sit at Jesus’ feet,” praying and attending worship services, rather than be distracted with daily tasks like preparing food or cleaning the house.

Jesus, however, had no intention of setting up a separation between the sacred and the worldly. Jesus went to Martha’s home with his disciples, and he knew a large meal had to be prepared, so he also knew that Martha was anxious and worried, and needed a helping hand from her sister Mary. However, Jesus wanted to tell Martha that in addition to preparing nutritious food and ministering to them, she did not have to lose sight of who he was and why he had come. It seems Martha learned the lesson because when her brother Lazarus died, she recognized in Jesus the power as Messiah to raise him from the dead (Jn. 11:27).

Today, we are asked, like Martha, to strike a balance between ministering through our day-to-day chores and the constant remembrance of who Jesus is and what he did for us. In everything that we do, there should be a constant attitude of dependence on the Lord. And for those who are quiet, withdrawn, and shy like Mary, they also ought to know that preaching and leading movements for justice and peace are not the only ways to follow Jesus. When Martha was too preoccupied and anxious, Jesus wanted to make clear to her not to lose sight of the important things. The incident illustrates a crucial principle in Catholic tradition, the Ora et Labora spirituality; prayer and work together as the way to God.

A true disciple maintains a balance between prayer and work. While we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, we also need to study God’s word and reflect on what Jesus teaches, including moments of silence and lifting up our minds and hearts to God constantly. Ora et Labora—social transformation and personal holiness go hand in hand. As we endeavor to transform society by proclaiming and working for the Shalom of God’s kingdom, we should also spend many moments of awed silence before the Divine Word who healed the sick and fed the multitudes, but also spent whole nights in prayer.

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