Reflection for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Imagine that you are in your house and suddenly you hear your doorbell ringing and coming to the door you discover that God came visiting; what would you do? Don’t tell me you will die because God will not permit that; even in your wildest imagination, you shall not die but live (Psalm 118:17).
God coming to visit may sound very strange but not unreal; God coming to visit may seem difficult but not impracticable, as we shall discover in this reflection.
God Visits Abraham
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis (18: 1-10a) tells us about God’s visit to Abraham. The narrative tells us that when the Lord visited, Abraham looked and saw three men standing nearby.
There is a point here! Notice that the Lord visited, but the physical manifestation of this visit was the appearance of three men. God comes to us through people and events around us. So, God coming to visit is not strange or impossible. It is all about our ability to perceive the presence of God when He comes visiting.
Abraham could discern the presence of God in the three visitors passing near his tent and acted accordingly by requesting that they come in to refresh themselves. Notice that he addressed the three men as “Sir” and not “Sirs.” Here we see one of the references to the Holy Trinity. How “three can be one at the same time.”
Abraham hosted the three men and treated them to a very sumptuous lunch, and towards the end of the visit, one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” This promise was fulfilled exactly as it was said:
And the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time the Lord promised him (Genesis 21:1-2).
The Lord’s Visit to Mary and Martha
The Gospel of Luke (10:38-42) tells us that Jesus entered a village (Bethany) with his disciples, where Martha opened her home to him or welcomed him. Inside the house was Mary, Martha’s sister, who sat by the foot of Jesus, listening as he taught. But Martha, more interested in being a “good host, ” went about fixing things for Jesus and his disciples.
In the middle of her busyness and the feeling of exclusion, Martha solicited that Jesus asks Mary to help her out. The answer Jesus gave surprised Martha as it instructs us today:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.
Our Mary and Martha Dimensions
Any attentive mind would wish to know two things about Mary: “what is the one thing, and what is the better part?” Before we look at that, let us start by examining the person and character of Martha.
The narrative tells us that she was the one that welcomed Jesus into their home. She appears to be an outgoing person. Recall that in the Gospel of John (11:20), she went out to meet Jesus when she heard that he had come to Bethany after the death of their brother Lazarus while Mary stayed back in the house.
The Martha dimension of us represents the exterior and temporal aspects of our being. It focuses on what we can do to obtain material comfort. The Martha part of us is open to hospitality and corporal support.
While Martha received Jesus into her home, Mary, her sister, accepted Jesus into her heart. Choosing the better part is to receive the Lord in one’s heart like Mary and not just welcome him into the house.
The Mary dimension is the interior life that seeks to sit at the feet of the Lord in humility and listen to what he has to say. The Mary dimension is not moved by material needs and temporary gains and things.
Moving Forward: Seeking the One Thing and Making a Better Choice
In 2012, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan unveiled their book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results.” The book demonstrates that excellence is the product of focusing on one important thing at a time. This was the point of Jesus when he said, “there is only one thing.”
There could be many things that need to be done, but only one thing would be necessary at any given time. Being able to do one thing is a function of choice. Abraham chose to receive the strangers into his home and received the promise of a son in his heart, which God fulfilled. Martha chose to receive Jesus in her home (a good act), but Mary went a step further to receive the Lord into her heart which was a better choice.
Like Martha, many people are still anxious and worried about many things in life when they need only one thing; to sit at the feet of the Lord and open their hearts to him as Mary did. Your anxiety and worry over many things cannot change anything but the Lord can settle all things for you just like He did for Abraham after the visit.
God is visiting you again today as He will always do whenever His words come across to us. Each time we hear the word of God, He is knocking at the door of our hearts, and as He promised, He will come in and dine with us if we open the door for him (Rev. 3:20).
Remember to choose the better part of the one thing you need as you journey through life, and nobody will take it from you. God bless you.