Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we are all reminded of the revelation of God’s truth to us, which He has reserved to all those who are willing to listen to Him and His truth, that all of us who listen to Him and come to believe in Him may come to embrace righteousness and justice in God’s truth. All of us are reminded that God has showed us all His love and generous compassion all these while, and how it is us mankind who are often ignorant of His love.

In our first reading today, we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the encounter between God and Abraham, His servant by the oaks in Mamre when Abraham stayed in Canaan. God appeared to Abraham to reveal to him that whatever He has promised to him in the Covenant He has made with him would be upheld, through the miracle of a son that Abraham would receive from God.

Even though Abraham had earlier on contravened God’s provision by the insistence of his wife Sarah, who tried a shortcut of having a son through her slave, Hagar, but God revealed to Abraham that His Covenant and promise would remain true as how He has planned it, and not as how man planned it. Although God did bless Ishmael, the son that Abraham had with Hagar, but the fullness of His promise and Covenant lies only in the promised son that Abraham then would have with Hagar.

Before we move on into the New Testament readings, it is important that we see what God has revealed to Abraham, and, although not included in the first reading passage today, exactly how Sarah, Abraham’s wife, responded to the revelation. Sarah did not believe in the words that the travellers spoke to Abraham, not knowing that those travellers were actually God Himself in person. She laughed secretly on hearing that she would have a child even though she had been very old then.

But God knew what was in her heart and mind, and asked Sarah why she laughed at what He has revealed to both her and Abraham. Sarah denied it, but God reminded her that He knew everything, and that to prove to her, she herself would indeed bear a son, and that son would be named Isaac, whose name means ‘he laughs’ in reference to the lack of faith of Sarah in God’s revelation of truth.

From what we have heard and discussed, we can see that Sarah did not fully trust in God and placed more faith in her own thinking and perceptions, in her own capability to sort things out, when she chose to take things into her own hands by using her slave to bear Abraham a son on her behalf, and then as mentioned, when she laughed at the words of God, probably thinking that it was ridiculous for anyone to have the notion that she could bear a son at such an age.

And now, let us all compare what we have heard in the first reading from the Book of Genesis to the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus interacted with two sisters, Martha and Mary, who ended up becoming those counted among His closest friends and disciples. In that occasion, Martha and Mary welcomed the Lord Who came into their house, and then we were shown the contrast in how the two of them welcomed the Lord.

Martha was busy preparing the house, getting ready for the meal and doing everything to show as hospitable a welcome as possible for the Lord. She did have good intentions in doing so, and most likely she believed that it was her best way of welcoming the Lord, as perhaps many of us would have also done. If a guest comes to our house, certainly we will do our best to prepare the house for the guest’s coming.

Meanwhile, Mary was with the Lord by His side, listening to Him preaching and teaching to her. Mary spent her whole time and focused all of her attention and effort to the Lord, unlike Martha who was preoccupied and busy with all of her preparations. Martha became angry at her sister and asked the Lord to tell Mary to help her in her preparations, justifying that she was so busy doing all the work by herself while Mary did not help out at all.

That was when the Lord reminded Martha that Mary has chosen a better path, one that is not clouded by our human and worldly fears and concerns, our desires and our prejudices. Mary focused her whole self on God and had total faith in Him, and that was all that matters. It was not that Martha was wrong in what she had been doing. Surely, Martha loved the Lord too, for otherwise she would not have even made the effort to prepare to welcome the Lord properly according to her standard of hospitality.

However, it was her great preoccupation and indeed, distraction caused by all of the things she was doing in the midst of her efforts and preparations that became obstacles for her in her effort to welcome the Lord into her heart. She was so busy trying to welcome the Lord into her house that she has forgotten to welcome Him into her even more important house, the house of her soul, that is her heart!

And that was what happened with Sarah in the Book of Genesis as well, because she was so busy and distracted being concerned of trying to have a son with her husband Abraham, that she had less faith in God and tried to have a shortcut instead by using her slave Hagar as a means to achieve her goal, and when as mentioned, God came up to her and told her what His plan was for her and Abraham, she did not believe, because she forgot to welcome God into her house properly, that is her heart.

Contrast that with Abraham, who like Mary, welcomed the Lord and brought Him into his own house, both literally and also figuratively, because Abraham trusted in God and believed in Him, and he listened to Him with all of his heart and attention. That was why in another occasion, when God asked Abraham to test his faith, by asking him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham listened to God and complied with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we also act in the manner of Sarah and Martha, who were distracted by their business and concerns in life, or do we act in the manner of Abraham and Mary, who had true and sincere faith for God? Let us all reflect on our own lives, our own actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful as we should have been faithful? Have we made the effort to welcome God into our hearts, into our minds and into our beings?

This is a reminder for each and every one of us not to allow our busy schedules, the many distractions and temptations in life to prevent us from appreciating the faith which we have in God. Let us all overcome those temptations and turn ourselves wholeheartedly from now on to God, focusing our whole attention to Him just as Abraham and Mary had done. As St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle today, to all of us, God has revealed the wonderful truth of His love.

Let us all therefore be faithful bearers and witnesses of God’s love, from now on, so that in our every actions and deeds, we will always be true and be dedicated in all things, devoting our every moments and opportunities to bring glory to God and to show His love and wonderful mercy to all of our fellow brethren in this world. May God bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of life. Amen.

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