16th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: “You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” What is the one thing the Lord is asking of me?
The First Reading tells the story of Abraham being visited by the Lord. With great reverence, Abraham welcomed the Lord and prepared a lavish meal for his special guest. Before departing, God promised him a son by the following year. In this story, we see the Lord revealing many mysteries to us through this one act. First, God revealed the mystery of His inner self to Abraham and to us, appearing to Abraham as three men. This is an indication of the Trinitarian nature of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, God descended upon Abraham, walking on earth like a normal man. This is a sign of things to come, when God would be borne as a man in the person of Jesus and walk on earth, to bring about salvation of humankind.
In a scene similar to that of the First Reading, the Gospel tells the story of a feast in honour of the Lord; and the contrasting behaviour of the sisters Martha and Mary. While Mary played the role of an ideal disciple, sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to him; Martha played the role of a dutiful host, busy preparing a lavish feast. In our faith journey, we are often called to be Martha, undertaking work of the Lord. Other times, we are asked the be Mary, sitting in front of the Lord, adoring Him. Let us ask ourselves, in my walk of faith, have I ever been so preoccupied by the work of the Lord and the forgot to stop and adore him? Notice Jesus’ reaction to Martha in the Gospel, “you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (verse 41-42). On the superficial level, Jesus seemed to be telling Martha that a lavish meal is not necessary, a simple dish will do. If we delve deeper, Jesus is in fact telling Martha that lavish formalities are really not necessary. Indeed, only one thing is necessary. What is the one thing in my faith that I need? In Martha’s case, it is the undivided adoration of the Lord – which is what Mary demonstrated, listening attentively to the Lord. This teaching also clarifies the message of the First Reading, that the promise of a son to Abraham is nota reward not for his lavish formalities, but for the one thing that Abraham demonstrated – his love and obedience to the Lord.
There are two key messages in the Second Reading:
- Our suffering completes the suffering of Christ. In Paul’s words, his suffering completes “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (verse 24). You may think, how can this be? How can Christ’s suffering be inadequate in any way? Yet it is true. To complete the salvific effect of Christ’s suffering, we need to lift up our own sufferings to be joined to His sufferings. It is just as Christ commanded to us: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Could this be the one thing the Lord ask of me?
- The second message is a “mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations” (verse 26), that salvation is universal. Salvation is God’s gift to everyone, Pagans and Jews alike, Christians and non-Christians alike. Salvation is not the exclusive rights of a specific race or religion. Jesus suffered and died for the salvation of all. “For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)