St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 2022

On Friday I was at a restaurant waiting to be seated for lunch. In front of me were two young women having a conversation. I had naturally assumed that they were together but when the hostess arrived, they separated, one going inside to eat and the other chose to dine outside. As they parted, one said to the other “it was nice meeting you”.

Usually we don’t talk to strangers. We learned that at an early age. There’s a term for that: xenophobia, fear of strangers. We were also that it’s best to avoid them because they might be dangerous or look different or speaking another language, because, well, they are strange.[1]

In the 1st reading, Abraham did exactly the opposite, running out and bowing down to the ground to greet the three man, offering them a shady place to rest, water to bathe their feet and a little food[2] to eat. He also said they would be doing him a favor, almost begging them to stay. As they getting ready to leave, one of them promised to come back about the same time next year and Sarah (and Abraham) would have a son[3]!

The Gospel has Jesus being welcomed into the Martha’s home where Mary (and presumably Lazarus) also lived. Martha as the hostess was busy with much serving and complained to Jesus about Mary who was just sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him speak and not helping her. Usually at this point the homilist tries to say something about the active life of service and quiet life of contemplation, saying we have to have both in order to be a good Catholic Christian but also lauding Mary and denigrating Martha a bit because in Jesus own words Mary has chosen the better part and Martha should let her be. But, I will not do that.

Instead I will talk about hospitality by which both parties give and receive. Abraham and Sarah gave hospitality to strangers and received a promise of a son. In Martha’s house she gave the Lord service, and the Lord gave Mary the comfort of his words.

Hospitality at its core is a response to human need. It may involve the active ministry of preparing and serving food and drink. Or, it may take the shape of interested listening to the words of another. Hospitality ultimately revolves around the needs of both the guest and the host. The most meaningful posture of the host is making guests feel that something was missing until they arrived, and the guests doing more than just bringing a bottle of wine.

 

[1] From a reflection of Michael Casey, a Cistercian monk in Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press, July 2022, p. 176-77.

[2] Someone figured out that Abraham had his wife make about 80 lbs. of bread and his servant prepare about 700 lbs. of beef!

[3] Abraham and Sarah were very old (advanced in years) and childless. Sarah was eavesdropping and laughed because she was past the age of childbearing and Abraham was @10 years older.

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