22 July 2007


16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:38-42

Are you familiar with Greek mythology? If you are, then you know that ancient Greece had many gods and deities. Jupiter, according to Greek mythology, is the father of all gods and goddesses. With the readings in today’s liturgy, I recall a story about Jupiter and his son, Mercury.

One day, the story says, Jupiter decided to visit the earth. Tagging Mercury along, he disguised himself as a weary traveler. He knocked on many houses but not one welcomed him and his son, except an old couple, by the name of Philemon and Baucis, who lived in a small cottage. The couple welcomed Jupiter and Mercury: the husband gave them warm water to clean themselves while the wife prepared a meal for them. While these were happening, the couples did not recognize the deities.

When the table was ready, all that the old couple could serve the gods-in-disguise were a hot stew and a pitcher of wine. As they drunk the wine, the couple noticed that the pitcher did not go empty because the wine replenishes itself. Thereupon, Philemon and Baucis realized that they had just welcomed two gods into their home. Their apologies to Jupiter and Mercury were endless because they could not offer them a banquet. But in gratitude for the couple’s kindness, Jupiter asked them what they wanted most and told them that it would be granted. Hesitant at first, the couple confided, “We have grown old together in love and mutual understanding; thus, it is our desire that we die on the same day so that the other will not have to mourn and live in grief.” Their wish was granted, and the kind couple lived unto a ripe old age until they died in peace together.

The story of a people visited by a god-in-disguise is common in various religious traditions. In our first reading today, for example, we hear that in showing hospitality to three strangers, Abraham was actually entertaining no less than God himself: he rushed to welcome them, bowed profoundly, washed their feet, invited them to rest while he prepared for them something to eat. It is worth noting that although Sarah, wife of Abraham, was the one who cooked the food for the strange visitors, she remained inside the tent and did not eat with her husband and the three. In Sarah’s culture, a woman is prohibited to be seen eating with men in public. Nonetheless, from where she was inside the tent, Sarah overheard the good news that God would visit her again the following year and she – despite her advanced age as well as that of Abraham – would finally bear a son. Similar to the good fortune of Philemon and Baucis, who showed hospitality to Jupiter and Mercury according to Greek mythology, God rewarded the kindness of an old couple – Abraham and Sarah – by granting their deepest desire.

Even in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, man’s inherent belief that God walks with His people, talks and eats with them, is already shown. This belief emphasizes the fact that God is involved in the life and struggle of His people. In the Gospel, seeing Jesus mingling and dining with the people, this truth is no longer a mere image of God but becomes a literal event in the history of humankind. Jesus is not in disguise; He is truly human. Indeed, He is a man. This is what St. Paul the Apostle declares in the second reading today: the mystery of God, hidden in secret for endless ages is already revealed in Christ. In the very person of Jesus, the Christ, true God and true man, men and women really meet God. In Jesus, we see the face of the living God.

In the gospel today, we see that St. Luke is highlighting the importance of Martha’s and Mary’s Guest. Do you notice that St. Luke put into Martha’s lips the title “Lord” when she talks to Jesus? That “Lord” (with a capital L) in the words of Martha to Jesus is not a mere token of respect to her Guest When she complains to Jesus, Martha calls Him “Lord” and, as St. Luke describes the scene, Mary meanwhile sits at the feet of the Lord. This visit is no ordinary visit. It signals that Jesus is about to teach a very important lesson on discipleship. Remember that when Martha meets Jesus who is on His way to raise Lazarus, the two sisters’ brother, from the dead, she also uses the title “Lord” in reference to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:21).

While Martha’s hands are not enough to do all the necessities of hospitality, Mary sees and hears no one but Jesus. This picture of Mary seated at the feet of their Guest is a world away from that of Sarah in the Old Testament who stayed inside the tent while Abraham and the three visitors ate outside. It is a world away from the religious practice of Jesus’ time: rabbis do not teach women because women can become neither teachers nor disciples. That St. Luke makes Mary take the posture of a disciple can raise many Jewish eyebrows. But that is precisely one of Jesus’ important lessons through His visit: His word is for all – men and women alike.

Martha’s opinion naturally flows with the tide of the times. For Martha, Mary should focus herself on other important matters of hospitality than listening to Jesus, no matter how important Jesus is for their family. A woman’s place is in the kitchen. Thus, complaining, Martha tells Jesus to remind Mary where she should be and what she should do other than sitting at His feet and listening to Him. But, imagine, if that happens, Jesus will be left sitting alone in the sala, talking to Himself! Even in our days, this happens to Jesus. No one listens to Him anymore. And there are two reasons why: one, everybody is busy with serving Him but not as busy with listening to Him; and, two, everybody is busy speaking to Him rather than listening to Him. Is it not true that there are those who talk about God but very seldom talk to God? And they are many who after reciting their piece to God, simply leave God unable to tell them what He thinks. Yet those who talk about God but very seldom talk to Him preach as if they have just had a chat with God. And those who monologue rather than dialogue with God still think that they are truly praying. We need to learn Martha’s lesson. With all her fret and fuss with serving the Lord, Martha forgets in the gospel today that her first and foremost concern should be listening to Jesus. Are we like Martha?

Mary exemplifies what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. It is worth noting that she, a woman, runs counter to the common cultural and religious view of her time that women cannot become disciples. It is also worth our reflecting on Martha’s lesson that welcoming the Lord is not about serving the Lord but about listening to Him first. Anyone who considers himself a disciple of the Lord Jesus should learn this lesson and live by it.

Is anyone still listening? May those who listen receive their reward.


At 5:40 PM , Anonymous Bubut said...

Lord Jesus, you always come to us, know in our hearts, but because of our busy schedules, noisy world, other personal concerns, we neglect you and even forgot to set a time to listen to you. Help us Lord Jesus that we can feel your presence wherever we are and even in the point that we are so concerned with a lot of personal things in our life. Bring us closer to you as we try to emulate you Mother who always there to listen to you.

God bless po.


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