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6 Pentecost, Year C: The Better Part

SUNDAY’S READINGS | July 17, 2022

Amos 8:1-12 or Gen. 18:1-10a
Ps. 52 or Ps. 15
Col. 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

There are two spiritual ways corresponding to two different dispositions and, perhaps, different callings: the way of action and the way of contemplation. In the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, Martha busied herself with the customary duties of hospitality, while Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying” (Luke 10:39).

Hospitality is a very high value in this culture, so Martha cannot be said to be doing anything other than a very good work. She is, after all, preparing, we would guess, food and drink for Jesus. Still, we notice that Martha is distracted by many things and irritated that Mary doesn’t help her. It’s as if, even if for a moment, Martha thinks that action is everything. Jesus corrects her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed — indeed, only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Mary has chosen the better part, and yet both parts are vital. We see this in the visitation of three men to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. First, Abraham shows deep reverence. “When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent, and bowed to the ground.” Then, he insists that his guests stay for a meal: “My Lord, if I have found favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen. 18:3-4). With the assistance of Sarah and a servant, the meal is prepared and Abraham sets it before his guests. All the while, the guests remain silent; when the meal is presented, Abraham is silent too, as if listening to wordless speech. “He stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Gen. 18:8). Mary sits and listens; Abraham stands and attends in contemplative stillness.

There are good works that we must walk in. Inasmuch as we have done a good work to the least of our brothers and sisters, we have done so to Christ. St. Paul says rather sharply, “anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Do we not often pray that God may give us “a spirit to think and do always those things that are right”? And yet our actions can be spoiled by distraction, even bitterness, and our spiritual lives can be choked amid agitation and compulsive activity.

We need that better thing. We may finally sit with Jesus when we realize who he is: the Word made flesh, the Word of life, God manifest in the flesh, our Lord and God, the Alpha and the Omega. He is before all things, the source of all things, the governance and guidance of all things, and their final and proper end. Thus, the salvation he brings is not only for human beings but for the whole of creation.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (Col. 1:15-20).

When Christ comes to your home, a holy hour begins.

Look It Up: Colossians 1:27

Think About It: Christ at your home is Christ in you.


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