Sunday, July 21, 2013
Martha, Martha. 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
When I first think of hospitality I picture my friends in Ghana, Africa. When I visited last year I was inspired by their gracious welcome everywhere I went. No matter the place I was offered water and food and was always told, “You are welcome here.” This came from people who—materially speaking—had little compared to us in the United States.
The Israelites prized the virtue of hospitality. We see an example of this in our first reading as Abraham saw three strangers standing idly by. He says to them, “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.” Abraham hosts his guests to a meal and takes care of them, even though they were strangers. It was not uncommon for strangers to be taken into an Israelite’s home, not only being nourished but also having their flocks cared for as well.
What Abraham did not know was that he was actually hosting God—the three men were actually angels of the Lord. This is a crucial point and shows that when true hospitality is practiced we not only serve others, but also God.
Martha missed the boat here. While hosting Jesus, she begins to complain at the lack of help from her sister. She was overly concerned with the details and lost sight of why she was serving in the first place. She wanted everything perfect but neglected who her guest was. Jesus says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”
Many of us have had a chance to host an event—a wedding, Baptism, grad party, dinner or other simple gathering. I have noticed Mary’s and Martha’s at some of these events. Some people get it, understanding that the point of service isn’t to look good or have everything perfect, but to show love and graciousness to others. Others, like Martha, become so consumed with details that the event loses its value. At times you wonder if they’re even enjoying the experience.
The next time you host an event, remember who you are serving—God and neighbor. And don’t forget Jesus’ words to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”