16TH Sunday O.T. (C):
SEEK, FIND AND LOVE OUR LORD NOT ONLY IN OUR PRAYER
BUT ALSO IN OUR DAILY ORDINARY ACTIVITIES.
Dear brethren in Christ, today’s Sunday liturgy underlines a very important trait of our Christian vocation: WE MUST SEEK, WELCOME AND LOVE GOD WITH GENEROSITY, HOSPITALITY, DOCILITY AND SERVICE. This beautiful reminder is the result of the main ideas found in the three readings of today’s Mass.
- 1st Reading: Gn 18:1–10a. Abraham generously welcomes his three visitors and God rewards him with a gift: his barren wife, Sarah, will bear a son.
- Gospel: Lk 10:38-42. Martha and Mary welcome Jesus in their house in Bethany and both dedicate themselves to their respective tasks: service and a welcoming hospitality.
- 2nd Reading: Col 1:24–28. He who receives Christ’s mystery must announce it without ceasing until everyone arrive at the fullness in Christ.
Nevertheless, we can focus our reflection on the Gospel of today’s Mass which recounts how Jesus, who was heading for Jerusalem, passed by Bethany, the village where the siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus, a family with whom he had great affection, lived. Then, a spontaneous dialogue which normally arises among friends took place:
“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.’”
- St Augustine comments on this scene as follows: “Martha, who was arranging and preparing the Lord’s meal, was busy doing many things, whereas Mary preferred to find her meal in what the Lord was saying. In a way she deserted her sister, who was very busy, and sat herself down at Jesus’ feet and just listened to his words. She was faithfully obeying what the Psalm said: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 46:10). Martha was getting annoyed, Mary was feasting; the former coping with many things, the latter concentrating on one. Both occupations were good” (Sermon 103).
- Some spiritual authors have identified MARTHA to be the symbol of the ACTIVE LIFE, and MARY, as that of the CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE.
- Furthermore, in some spiritual writings, a contrasting dichotomy between ACTION vs. CONTEMPLATION could be gleaned. However, such difference need not be over-emphasized. ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS OPPOSITE MANNERS OF LIVING OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE.
- On the one hand, an active life unmindful of God is useless and sterile; while, on the other hand, an apparent life of prayer which is indifferent of the apostolate and the sanctification of ordinary daily activities also fails to please God.
- Rather, since all of us are called to seek holiness in our daily ordinary activities, ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION ARE COMPATIBLE AND HAVE TO BE LIVED AND SOUGHT AFTER TOGETHER AS ONE.
Dear brethren in Christ, we must strive to combine Martha’s active work and service with Mary’s contemplation of Jesus. We must learn how to SEEK, FIND AND LOVE OUR LORD NOT ONLY DURING MOMENTS DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO OUR PRAYER LIFE BUT ALSO IN OUR DAILY ORDINARY ACTIVITIES (family life, work, social life and rest), without either harming the other. This unity between action and contemplation can be achieved in very different ways, depending on the specific vocation each person is given by God.
- FAR FROM BEING OBSTACLES, WORK, FAMILY LIFE, OUR SOCIAL DEALINGS, REST AND RECREATION ARE MEANS AND OCCASIONS TO SEEK, FIND, AND LOVE GOD, STRIVING TO HAVE AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR LORD, WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR LIFE. IN SHORT, WE ARE ALL CALLED TO BE CONTEMPLATIVES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD.
“You must understand now more clearly that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it…There is no other way. Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find him. That is why I can tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the most trivial occurrences and situations their noble and original meaning. It needs to restore them to the service of the Kingdom of God, to spiritualize them, turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ” (St. Josemaria, Conversations, 114).
Let us ask the help of Our Lady and St. Joseph, the great contemplatives, so that we too, may seek, contemplate and love Jesus in our midst and convert our work, family and rest into contemplative prayer, with Jesus as the motive and end of all our actions.
Fr. Rolando Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei.
ORIGINAL PHOTO SOURCE: Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Flight to Egypt, in www.wikiart.org