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Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time C: July 17, 2022

Luke 10: 38-42

Fr. John Tran

We hear a lot about hospitality in the first reading and the gospel this Sunday. What does to be hospitable mean? The word comes from a Latin word meaning ‘guest room.’ So hospitable refers to making a guest feel welcome, feel cared for, making room for a guest; in short, it means for the Christian, treating some one as if he or she was Christ.

In the readings today, Abraham and Martha both exercise their gifts of hospitality. Abraham hurries to put on a feast for mysterious visitors. After they accept his offer of ‘a little bread,’ he calls for Sarah to make up a three measures of of fresh cakes, and his servants to prepare the fatted calf with fresh curds and milk. What a feast! Martha is no less busy preparing her finest food for Jesus. Abraham entertains angels, Martha serves the Son of God. But Mary gives hospitality too by listening to Jesus.

So, are Abraham and Martha on the wrong track in paying attention to the needs of their guests? Of course not. After all, Jesus rebukes Martha for complaining that Mary did not share the work of hospitality, telling her that Mary “had chosen the better part, “ by sitting at his feet and listening to him. No, Jesus had no complaints about accepting the great kindness Martha’s actions gave him.

It is not a question of doing one thing or the other, preparing for the guest or sitting at his feet and listening to him. Rather, it is a question of doing both. Both the busy preparations and the prayerful listening are essential to giving good hospitality to anyone, and especially to Jesus or an angel.

But isn’t this where we began today? For the Christian, giving hospitality to anyone is giving it to Christ. This hospitality means that we have a balance between ministering to Christ by spending alone time with him in prayer, as well as, treating all others as if they were Christ. On the last day, we will be judged exactly by this: did we treat even the poorest ones as if he or she were Christ. That is the message Jesus gives us in St. Matthew’s gospel when he divides us into the sheep or the goats. The person who has ministered to the lowest one, is in fact ministering to Jesus himself. Prayer and good works are both necessary for our life in Christ.

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