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16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 21, 2019

Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Tim Papa


Buying the perfect gift is hard, as I’m sure all of you know. Pity the poor man who, when his wife asked him what her dream the previous night meant where she had been given a beautiful strand of pearls, that night presented her with what he thought was the perfect gift: a book entitled “Interpreting Dreams.” We’ve all been in that situation where we have given a gift which is not all we had wished it to be.

The theme of today’s readings is that type of giving known as hospitality, and the rewards that God grants on those who serve God and neighbor. Abraham waits on his guests, which he does not know but Genesis tells us is the Lord. Abraham goes above and beyond what civil politeness requires and treats his unknown guests in a way that is as good or better than he would no doubt treat his good friends and relatives had they been visiting.

This then is that standard that the Old Testament gives us: treat everyone as though they are the Lord, for indeed they are in the likeness of God, made in His image, and greatly loved by the Lord, as He loves all of his creatures. Do we live up to this standard?
The Gospel teaches us a similar lesson: both Martha and Mary were hospitable to Jesus, one waiting on his needs and the other attentive to his words and teachings. But one was better. Why?

To actively serve one another and give them what we think they need or want is indeed an act of kindness. But while this is generally true it must be qualified. How many tragedies have occurred in literature, or situation comedies on television, when a person strives to obtain something for another only to find out that it was never wanted by the person for whom it was intended? How many marriages have broken up because one of the spouses was working all of the time to provide income for things that he or she could buy for the family, when all of the rest of the family wanted was to spend time with the person, even though that meant having less stuff?
Jesus is teaching us today that He wants to spend time with us, He wants to get to know us, He wants to be a part of our lives. This was what Mary was able to perceive. Jesus was no doubt hungry and thirsty from his journey, but He was hungrier and thirstier to be with those with whom he could engage on a personal level.

Giving the perfect gift is not easy. There are bad gift givers – the ones that buy gifts that they themselves would like but the receiver doesn’t really care for. There are good gift givers – the ones that buy gifts that they know the receiver would like, but that does not have any particular special meaning coming from the giver. And then there are great gift givers – the ones who give gifts that the receiver loves but that also has a special relationship to the giver and commemorates a common interest or bond.

Christ is not saying that the part that Martha took was bad – we still need to actively serve God and neighbor through the hospitality known as the corporal works of mercy. These are also His teachings elsewhere in the Gospel: feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and the imprisoned, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor. Jesus never told Martha to stop doing that.

What He did teach Martha was that this was not enough. There will be time for that, but never neglect to be with the ones you love. Be with them, talk with them, pray with them, play with them, love them. This is the perfect gift. Is Martha giving Jesus what she wants to give Him or what He truly wants? What Christ wants is to be with us and to speak to us and for us to talk with Him.

For what is heaven? The Church teaches that heaven is life everlasting where we will be in the presence of God, looking upon His face. The second reading from Paul teaches that it is Christ who opens up this for us, to live in God’s grace and friendship. Paul wants everyone to live the life which will enable them to have Christ in them and to receive the “riches of the glory of this mystery.”



By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

The first reading from Genesis and the Gospel from Luke that we heard today are familiar ones.  Even though we may have heard these words many times before, let’s try to be still and open our hearts and minds to the Holy Words of these Scripture passages.  The Old and New Testament are filled with explanations on how we should live our lives and how we should treat each other.  Let’s also remember that the Old Testament is more aptly called the Hebrew Scriptures and that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Sometimes when we refer to them as Old, we might think that they are stale and irrelevant – but they are far from irrelevant.

In a reflection that I read recently, a priest was reviewing his Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from his health care provider and proceeded to cut out the big letters EOB at the top of the statement and taped it to his Bible.  He felt this was a good reminder – when he reads the sacred words about Jesus, the divine physician, who benefits our souls with saving grace.  Think about that for a second – the Bible is the Explanation of Benefits that we receive every time we read or listen to the words in this sacred book; which are the inspired Words of God.  If we live our life the way the Scriptures tell us to, we will reap the many benefits in this life and when we get to our eternal resting place.

Going back to today’s readings let’s take a closer look at Abraham, Martha and Mary. In the first reading, Abraham knew about the importance of hospitality towards guests, but he also knew of the importance of listening to the word of God.  He welcomed these three men passing in the distance, offered them a place to rest and waited on them with food and drink.  Abraham did not know that these three men were actually angels sent by God – he just knew that being hospitable was the right thing to do towards others.  Abraham was a righteous man and praised God.  And even though he and his wife Sarah were advanced in years, God answered their prayers and gave them a son.

In today’s Gospel, Martha also knew the importance of hospitality, but her insistent busyness caused her to lose focus of the importance of what is happening right in front of her.  The Son of God was in her presence, but she was too busy with preparations and missed the opportunity to rest in the presence of Jesus.  Jesus even told Martha “you are anxious and worried about many things”.  Luckily her sister Mary, who also knew about hospitality, had the foresight to still herself and chose to sit at Christ’s feet.  To listen quietly to the words of wisdom from the Son of God – the words that will lead to salvation. 

Many years ago, when my wife Tami and I were looking for something extra to bring us closer to God and help us feel a sense of community we joined a praise and worship prayer group at our Church.  After work and picking-up our daughter from daycare, we would attend most Thursday evenings.  Quite often we brought our daughter along with us and it was the most calming and amazing time of our very hectic week.  One week the two of us were worried about something that was going on in our life and we discussed it with the group.  People prayed with us and gave us some advice on how to deal with the situation.  The one thing that I remember most was an elderly woman telling us that ‘worry is a useless emotion’.  I believe this woman was telling us to stop being like Martha; instead be more like Mary and be still and listen to the Words of Jesus.
To this day, my house is not exempt from getting anxious about things and losing site of what Jesus wants us to focus on.  There are the demands of those that we work for Monday through Friday.  There are the responsibilities of the family, pets and home we’ve been entrusted to care for.  There are evening meetings and weekend commitments here at St James Church.  There is the upcoming senior year of college, graduation in May and wedding of our daughter next July.
The list goes on and I’m sure each of you have similar lists of stuff that you have to do each day.  Sometimes it might even seem like we’re so overwhelmed with day-to-day commitments that we’re not sure there is any time left for quiet time in prayer and just being still to listen to the Words of Jesus.  But we must choose to keep things in perspective and be more like Mary in today’s Gospel.  All the busyness, anxiety and worry in the world is not going to help us find salvation.

During the five-and-a-half-year diaconate formation process – you might say that I was a little busy.  But, I found time to increase my prayer life and believe that is what helped me get through the many years of papers, studying and final exams.  Once formation was over and I was ordained I knew it was time for me to find an hour per week in quiet prayer and contemplation.  I now attend Eucharistic Adoration every Wednesday morning, before the work day begins.  The time away from the day-to-day distractions and busyness is a time for me of spiritual nourishment and growth at the feet of Christ.

I would like to touch on the Matthew Kelly book The Biggest Lie In The History of Christianity that we received at the end of last year.  Kelly makes the point that as Christians a majority of us believe that holiness is not possible for ourselves.  Of course, Kelly doesn’t believe that and the point of the book is we should not believe it either.  We are all called to be the best version of ourselves and that call also includes holiness.  Another point that is reiterated throughout the book is that we are too busy in life and we often miss the Holy Moments that surround us each and every day.  If we just took time to be more aware of those God moments or Holy moments each day, imagine what a wonderful happy and joyous world we would live in.  Here is a prayer about being more aware and transformation from this book by Matthew Kelly:

Here I am.
I trust that you have an incredible plan for me.
Transform me, Transform my life.
Everything is on the table.
Take what you want to take and give what you want to give.
I make myself 100 percent available to you today.
Transform me into the person you created me to be,
so I can live the life you envisioned for me at the beginning of time.
I hold nothing back.
I am 100 percent available.
Lead me, challenge me, encourage me and open my eyes to all your possibilities.
Show me what it is you want me to do and I will do it.

My hope and prayer is that each of you will find a piece of Mary (from today’s Gospel) in your life and find quiet time to spend listening to Jesus.  It doesn’t have to be monumental.  Read the daily Mass readings and contemplate what they are saying to you.  Attend daily Mass once a week.  Pray the Rosary.  Spend some quiet time in Adoration each week. 

Whatever you decide to do, try to be a little less like Martha where your vision is clouded by all the stuff that needs to be done and be a little more like Mary in quiet contemplation with Jesus. 
Spend some quiet time with the scriptures and Jesus – you won’t be disappointed. 

Find your inner peace, look for those Holy Moments, listen to the sacred Word of Scripture and transform your lives to the holiness we are all called to.

    By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

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