Sunday, 17 July 2022 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to remember to trust in God and in all that He has planned for each one of us. We must have trust and faith in Him, because through God alone that there is true hope and way out of our troubles and predicaments. God knew all that we need and all things in our hearts and minds. In how the Lord cared and provided for Abraham, our renowned father in faith, and how He reassured both Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, the Lord showed us that all of us have nothing to fear.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis, the account of how the Lord came to visit Abraham and his wife Sarah in a disguise. The Lord was immediately recognised by Abraham, who welcomed Him into his tent and dwelling place, giving Him the best hospitality that he could provide. The Lord then came and ate of whatever Abraham provided for Him, before telling him the good news that He had come to personally tell Abraham, by saying that what He promised to him when He made and sealed the Covenant, would finally come true at last.

The Lord made a Covenant with Abraham, then named Abram, a middle-aged man who was childless because Sarah, then known as Sarai, was barren and unable to have any children. As such, Abraham was prepared to pass on his inheritance to his servant named Eliezer, as he was without a son. God promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars, through the means that God would give him, and despite the age of Abraham and his wife Sarah, everything was possible for God.

Abraham did falter for a while in this, as he listened to the advice and pressure from Sarah, for him to take one of her slaves, named Hagar, to bear for himself a son. That led to the conception and birth of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. Although now Abraham technically had a son then, but the Lord again reiterated and emphasised that the son through whom Abraham would pass on his inheritance would be that of his son with Sarah, to be named as Isaac. And even the name Isaac itself has a deep and profound meaning which may not be immediately apparent to us.

The name Isaac means, ‘the one who laughs’ or ‘the one who rejoices’ which can be a reference to the great joy which Abraham and Sarah must have experienced when their long-awaited child was finally born. At the same time it also refers to what happened after today’s first reading passage, when Sarah heard about what the Lord spoke to Abraham, how Sarah would bear a son within a year, and Sarah, in partial disbelief, laughed upon hearing those words, which the Lord knew about and told her when she tried to deny it, that she did laugh.

We can see from the first reading story of Abraham, Sarah, God and the son promised by God to both Abraham and Sarah, that trusting and having faith in God will not lead to disappointment. Instead, when man tried hard to do things their own way, that would lead to complications that they might not have foreseen earlier on, as for example, the birth of Ishmael, the son between Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s slave eventually became friction and trouble for both Hagar and Ishmael when Isaac, the promised son for Abraham and Sarah was born. Ishmael and Hagar had to be cast out and sent to the wilderness, although in the end, God did provide for them and made Ishmael the father of many great nations too, for he was also a descendant of Abraham.

We see in that how God even made what was imperfect and flawed into ideal, still fulfilling His promise to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations. Not only that Isaac, his promised son and heir became the father of nations, but even Ishmael too, the son born because Abraham and Sarah were impatient with God’s promise. God still showed His love, care and providence for us all, His beloved ones, no matter what. He blesses those who are faithful to Him, and even those who have fallen off the path, God still patiently tried to reach out to and to be reconciled with them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the moment when the Lord came to visit the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, who were all His friends. Mary and Martha welcomed the Lord into their house, and we heard of how while Mary was by the Lord’s side throughout the time, listening to the Lord speaking and teaching to her, Martha was very busy preparing everything for welcoming the Lord, likely busy with the cooking and all the other house chores and works.

And as we heard, Martha became a little irritated that Mary did not help her at all with her work and preparations, and she told the Lord to tell Mary to give her some help. That was when the Lord told Martha that what Mary did was not wrong, as she was truly making good use of the time, and welcoming the Lord not with all the busy preparations and celebrations, but by opening her heart and mind, and by being present there with the Lord, cherishing every single moments of His Presence.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we are all called to realise just how often we have ignored the Lord and not cherishing His Presence, His love and grace in our lives, all because we are too busy with too many things and preoccupations that we fail to focus our attention and efforts on the Lord. The Lord has always been present in our midst, but many of us are too preoccupied with our worldly desires and other things to be able to notice His Presence.

What Martha did was not wrong. In fact, Martha busied herself because she wanted to give her best to serve the Lord, to be the best provider of hospitality and care, love and attention to Him. She did all that out of love for God, but her way of doing things made her distracted from her main purpose of serving the Lord. And if that action done out of noble and good intention could end up distracting Martha, then all the more if our worldly pursuits and desires ended up distracting and leading us away from God’s path.

In our second reading today, we heard St. Paul writing to the Colossians, in his Epistle to them, regarding the revelation of God’s truth and love to His people, which He had made available to all of us through His disciples, the Apostles and saints, and through His Church. He did all these so that we may come to know Him more, and therefore, will be able to follow Him with greater commitment and dedication. If we do not know the Lord as much, then how can we become close to Him, and how do we know what we need to do in order to be faithful to Him? That is why as Christians we are called to deepen our relationship with God.

And that is also why through our Scripture readings this Sunday, all of us are called to appreciate more the Lord’s Presence in our lives, just in the way Abraham immediately recognising the Lord’s Presence even when He came to him in disguise. All of us often fail to realise that God is ever present in our midst, watching over us, and caring for us. Many of us are too focused on our troubles and trials, or are too preoccupied with our worldly ambitions and plans, our many attachments and other matters that we overlook the Lord’s ever present love and kindness in our midst. God is and has always been there, but we are often too blinded and distracted to notice Him.

That is why we are all called to be committed in our Christian living and work like Martha, but at the same time not forgetting the presence of God and cherishing His presence in our midst like Mary, and like our father in faith, Abraham, we should recognise the Lord and His loving works and presence among us. Each and every one of us as Christians are called to be true and faithful disciples of the Lord in all things. Let us allow God to lead and guide us in every opportunities so that we may grow ever closer to Him, and continue to glorify Him through our lives, our words, actions and deeds, now and always. Amen.

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