Tuesday, August 06, 2013

21 July 2013 - 16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

A Liturgy in Honour Saint Mary of Magdala

First Reading:  Genesis 18.1-10a
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 15
Second Reading:  Colossians 1.24-28
Gospel: Luke 10.38-42

Hospitality is the dominant theme in today’s first reading and Gospel.  But what is hospitality?  The dictionary says it is “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”  Some of us are influenced to practice hospitality by the quotation from Hebrews chapter 13, verse 2, often associated with Dorothy Day, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  But fewer of us have connected it with the verse immediately before it, which says, “Let mutual love continue.”  This suggests that for people of faith, hospitality is motivated by love and is a mutual demonstration of love.  Generosity is a key component of hospitality as demonstrated in the first reading.  Abraham served the best of what he had to his guests.  Their gift to Abraham was the announcement that he and Sarah would have a son, even though Sarah was past child bearing age.

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to experience the mutuality of hospitality.  The Director of Hummingbird Ministries, Rev. Mary Fontaine, and two other Aboriginal Elders, Ruth Adams and Laura Fortin, came to visit our community as a follow-up to our earlier KAIROS meeting on reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples.  Mary led us in a talking circle where we all shared what hospitality meant to us from our specific ancestral and family backgrounds and what hospitality meant to us as individuals.  As each person spoke, it was clear that all of us in the circle thought hospitality was more than the dictionary definition.  At the close of the circle, the Elders gave each of us a gift and the community gave a gift to Hummingbird Ministries.  We continued our sharing over the potluck supper.  Listening to each other, sharing stories, food and time, we started the day as strangers but I think everyone who was there would say that we ended the day as friends.  I think that is what hospitality does.

In the Gospel, Jesus does not chastise Mary for not helping Martha.  More importantly, he doesn’t chastise Martha for “being distracted by her many tasks.”  He knows someone has to tend to the practical side of entertaining.  Someone has to prepare the food.  But that’s just the surface story.  The story of Mary and Martha calls us to look deeper into hospitality. 

In Luke’s Gospel, the story just before this is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  That story answers the question, “who is our neighbour?”  It demonstrates what it means to love our neighbour. So let’s look at the deeper meaning of what Luke is trying to tell us here. 

We are all both Mary and Martha. These days especially, some of us─- including me─ can get so busy, with what we think we must get done, that we neglect to chose the better part.  Just as in the example of our talking circle, hospitality includes listening.  We need to take the time to listen to what Jesus is saying to us.  Our Catholic tradition is a wealth of ready made prayers.  We have a tendency to play down the contemplative styles of prayer.  We have come to know prayer as “talking” to God.  But that is only one part of what prayer is; the other part is listening to God.  Just as we are called to practice hospitality to our neighbour, we are called to listen, to open the doors of our hearts to hear what God has to say to us.  The story of Mary and Martha shows us how we can get to know God better.  It presents us with another way to show God our love; through the hospitality of an open, listening heart.

Now, I invite you to share your thoughts on hospitality.


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