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RCIA – The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Hearing the Word of God

July 17, 2010

The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

July 18, 2010

Opening Prayer: O God, creator of the whole universe, you have given us the Word, your son, Jesus Christ. May we be open to hear the Word spoken to us that it may take root in our minds and in our hearts so that the words we speak and the deeds we do will lead others to know, love and serve you. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen. (RCL)

Take a moment to summarize the message you heard proclaimed today.

There are many ways that we receive messages today, especially with all of the technology available to us. We can text, phone, email, facebook, and twitter. We receive messages from the TV, the internet, church, conferences, books, etc. We also have the old standbys of face-to-face conversation and letter writing. Which is your favorite? your least favorite?

In today’s readings receiving God’s message is the primary focus. Abraham and Sarah invited strangers, God’s messenger into their home, and received a promise of a son in their old age. Paul reveals the message of God, the mystery of Christ to the holy ones. At the feet of Jesus, Mary listens to his words and is told that she has chosen the better part. (RCL)

In all of the messages that you receive in your lives, think of a time when you received “a message.” It could have been an important message or a subtle message. Did you recognize the message and the messenger?  How did you respond to the message, to the messenger, in your own life?

Let us sit quietly for a few minutes and be open to hearing a message from our Lord. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Imagine yourself in a very beautiful place, just sitting quietly. In the distance you see Jesus coming toward you. He quietly sits down beside you. What would Jesus say to you? What would you say to Jesus? ….. Jesus says good-bye and walks away. Open your eyes. (RCL)

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The topic of hospitality is also key in today’s readings. How do we welcome new people or strangers in our work setting, in our families, in our neighborhoods? Outline some key elements of hospitality.

The first reading – Genesis 18:1-10a

How does the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah differ from the hospitality listed above? How important is hospitality, especially the hospitality offered to the stranger, who is the Lord?

Today’s reading from the Book of Genesis is part of a whole cycle of stories concerning Abraham. The intent of these stories is to contrast the failure of the “first creation” in the sin of Adam with the success of the “second creation” in the obedience of Abraham. (RCL)

Hospitality was considered a sacred obligation in Biblical times, as Abraham’s generous behavior clearly shows. What kind of hospitality do we offer? The quality of our hospitality to others is likely to reflect the quality of our hospitality to Christ, whether we receive him in others, in prayer, in the Liturgy of the Word, or in Holy Communion. Consider the hospitality he has shown to us at the Eucharistic table! (M)

Abraham offered hospitality and the stranger made a promise to Abraham and Sarah that next year they would have a son. This begins the fulfillment of the covenant made to him, that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. Just as Abraham and Sarah did not recognize the stranger, so, too, we do not recognize the presence of God in the people we meet day after day. Martha and Mary challenge us to practice hospitality not merely as doing something for someone but taking the time to listen to our neighbor. Time is often the greatest gift we can give to another. Giving time is integral to hospitality. (RCL)

The tenth century B.C. author of today’s first reading, called the Yahwist because of his practice of referring to God as Yahweh, writes about the dilemma of Abraham and Sarah. They have received God’s promise that despite their advanced age they will have a son, but they have understandable doubts (Gn 12:2; 17:2, 16-17). Today they receive unexpected guests and they fulfill their roles of hospitality. Although the Yahwist mentions three male guests in Genesis 18:2 and speaks of “them” throughout the narrative, he has reworked the traditions to focus on the Lord as the sole guest (Gn 18:1, 3, 10, 14). (JOF)

It is possible the ancient editor retained the ambiguity to signal that God is both transcendent and mysterious but also a close and loving presence in the world. Exactly when Abraham realizes he is entertaining the Lord is hard to pinpoint, but the details give clues. Abraham’s response is excessive at every turn: he is an old man who “runs” to his guests, he offers “some water” and “a little food,” but serves a royal feast, and he invites the men urgently, saying, “now that you have come this close” (as if realizing God has come down to humanity).(LTP)

Abraham fulfills all of the tasks of a good Bedouin host. He graciously prostrates himself at the arrival of the guest(s). He offers water for bathing the feet and the shade of a tree for resting. The meal that he provides is nothing less than a splendid banquet. The “little bread” consists of approximately a bushel of fine flour, curds, milk, and a choice steer. In addition, he waits on his guest(s) while he enjoys the shade of the tree. (JOF)

In the ancient world where travel was hazardous, hospitality was a vital part of the culture. But this exceeds expectations. His attitude reveals an understanding that besides good food and drink, hospitality means attentiveness to guests, a willingness to hear the word they speak. (LTP)

The three visitor’s only question concerns Sarah. Earlier, Abraham asked God to fulfill the promise of descendants through Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagaar, Sarah’s servant. But God insists the promise will be kept through a son Sarah will bear. Here we see that God’s promise not only includes Abraham, but Sarah as well. (LTP)

Sarah plays the role of the dutiful Bedouin wife. Her place is in the kitchen where she cooks for her husband’s guest. Indeed she must remain in the tent since the customs of that society forbid her from mingling with the male guest. While Genesis 18:10 contains the divine promise that Sarah will have a son the following spring, today’s reading does not mention Sarah’s reaction to the promise. According to Genesis 18:12, Sarah laughed (also see Gn 17:17, 19; Isaac means laughed). (JOF)

“There is need of only one thing.” The responsorial psalm tells us what it is: living in the presence of the Lord. Abraham coaxes this presence: “Sir, please do not go on past your servant.” … Christian stewardship demands stillness, silence, and attentiveness before the Presence. To those who choose the better part, God chooses “to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery.”(M)

The second reading – Colossians 1:24-28

In this letter, Paul is refuting the false teachers who were proselytizing among the Gentile converts. At the time of Paul, there existed numerous mystery religions which taught that access to divine mysteries could be obtained in secret cultic celebrations, and such rituals guaranteed the initiate a form of salvation which made them “complete.” Paul states that our participation in the mystery of Christ’s saving death takes place over time and requires that we become hearers and doers of the Word. (RCL)

Paul suffered much for the sake of the Gospel, including several imprisonments. He’s jailed as he writes this letter, yet, remarkably, he rejoices in his suffering. The long opening sentence seems to suggest there was something lacking in Christ’s suffering that Paul is now compensating for with his own. Nothing could be further from the truth. This much debated text implies no deficiency in Christ’s sacrifice. John Paul II wrote that because it was through suffering that Christ saved us, suffering itself has been redeemed and has somehow become salvific. That is, anyone who suffers can share in Christ’s redemptive suffering. Although the “good” that Christ achieved in the redemption is “inexhaustible and infinite,” and although no one can add to the redemption Christ achieved, at the same time, because the Church is his body, Christ has made it possible for all human suffering to unite with his own redemptive suffering. To the extent that we willingly share in Christ’s sufferings, to that extent we “help complete the suffering through which Christ redeemed the world.” Because Christ continues to suffer in his body, the Church, his redemptive suffering continues unceasingly through us when we willing offer up our sufferings to God (Salvifici Dolores, 23-24). (LTP)

The rest of the text outlines the gradual movement from “mystery” to revelation: the once hidden mystery (Christ lives in us) is now “manifested,” “known,” and something to preach, proclaim, and teach. The same mature joy of Paul’s opening echoes through these lines. (LTP)

The Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

Luke rarely names those who converse with Jesus, yet here he names two women and Martha is first. It is she who welcomed Jesus to her home and she who engages him in dialogue – and through her that a lesson is taught. Mary is introduced almost parenthetically, but the simple language describes a remarkable relationship. Mary assumes the disciple’s posture at Jesus’ feet, something women simply did not do. And while we are only told that Martha welcomed Jesus, we are shown how Mary did it – by listening. Luke’s emphasis is clear” true hospitality assumes the attitude of a disciple and eagerly listens to the work of the Lord. This is Luke’s primary concern, not a condemnation of Martha’s culinary zeal. (LTP)

This passage doesn’t suggest a simplistic and moralizing opposition between action and contemplation. Jesus loves Martha as much as Mary. Martha confidently approaches Jesus the way a child sometimes approaches a parent, complaining (she “has left me by myself…”) and demanding (“Tell her to help me”). Jesus chastises Martha not for what she does, but for how she does it: “anxious and worried.” His repetition of her name signals affection and possible amusement at her consternation. His tone must not condemn her behavior, but invite her to remember why and for whom she labors, so that she can listen even in her busyness. (LTP)

Whether we are to serve by active work or contemplative listening is God’s decision. In either case, how do we serve? Martha and Mary are both honored in the liturgy as obedient disciples, but they show two face of service: self-concerned and self-forgetful. Which one is the face of our own spirit of service? (M)

The Divine Life Calling Martha – If we see that this is really about a Presence, about a person-to-person exchange, if we see that each gesture allows us to be in communion with divine life, we will understand that the eternal life is now … There lies your eternity, your infinite communion, because each human act, if it is a gift of ourselves, is an act creating eternity … it is at every instant that divine life is calling you, that it can circulate through you, communicate itself to others, provided you are attentive to life with its immense dimensions … God is not someone we can speak about, he is someone we breathe, who we communicate through the atmosphere emanating from ourselves. People around you will feel if you are in constant communion with God. There is not a religious action: it is the whole life that is religious, the whole life or nothing, I repeat, the whole life or nothing … You need no more than that to be in communion with God. Labor, rest, the daily relationships of humans among themselves, that is religion provided every act is vested with this divine presence and communicates it. (M) (Father Maurice Zundel)

Commentators have often interpreted today’s Gospel as a discussion about the relative merits of the contemplative life versus the active life. In fact, this story is the second illustration that Luke gives to explain the meaning of the “great commandment” to love God and neighbor, the first being the parable of the Good Samaritan. Active compassion for one’s neighbor was last week and receptive hearing of the word of God is this week and each is highlighted as a way of fulfilling the one great commandment that Jesus has given us. (RCL)

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Catholic Teaching

The goal today is to form an understanding of The Word and its place in our lives and in our worship. The Israelites thought of The Word as the manifestation of God. In The Word God is revealed and present. The Word is always dynamic. To hear the word demanded a response. The Word is preached to us and in turn a response is required of us – to be a hearer of the “full measure of wisdom” contained in that word. (RCL)

God communicates divine love to us in words and deeds. His words are the sacred Scriptures and “the interpreter of sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words” (Dei Verbum, 18 November 1968). (RCL) Basically, we need to get to know God, by spending time with Him.

The Church venerates the Scriptures as it venerates the Lord’s Body. The instructions given in the Lectionary indicate, “In the readings, explained by the homily, God is speaking to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and nourishing their spirit; Christ is present to the faithful through his own word.” (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) Catholics, therefore, see themselves as receiving nourishment from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body. (CCC 103) (RCL)

The Lectionary – Any liturgical volume containing passages to be read aloud in the services of the Church. (OCE)

Lectionary (Lectionarium or Legenda), is a term of somewhat vague significance, used with a good deal of latitude by liturgical writers. It must be remembered that in the early Middle Ages neither the Liturgy of the Mass, nor the Divine Office recited by monks and other ecclesiastics in choir, were to be found, as in the Missal and the Breviary of the present day, complete in one volume. Both for the Mass and for the Office a variety of books were used, for it was obviously a matter of convenience when books were both bulky and costly to produce, that the prayers, e.g. which the priest had to say at the altar, should be contained in a different volume from the antiphons to be sung by the choir. The word lectionary, then, in its wider sense, is a term which may be correctly applied to any liturgical volume containing passages to be read aloud in the services of the Church. (OCE)

Today the Lectionary is organized into the three-year cycle, which the Church calls Year A, Year B, and Year C. Each year one of the three synoptic Gospels is assigned to most of the Sunday readings. The Lectionary includes all of our Scripture readings at Mass which include the Old Testament, the Psalms, the letters in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, Revelation and the Gospels.

The Church also has a number of other ritual books which contain Scripture and are used for other Church ceremonies. Some of the ritual books are: the Order of Christian Funerals, Pastoral Care of the Sick, the Rite of Baptism of Children, the Rite of Marriage, Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, and the Handbook of Indulgences.

Every blessing found in the Book of Blessings is accompanied by a Liturgy of the Word such that if the blessing does not take place within a Mass appropriate Scriptures set the context for the ritual action of the blessing. All the rites of the Church and its sacramental celebrations follow this structure. (RCL)

Beginning with Pope Pius XII, including the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI (Introduction to the Roman Missal), and up to the present (Catechism of the Catholic Church), the church has re-emphasized that Scripture is to be the foundation of all theological study. There has been, therefore, an explosion of Bible study groups, faith communities based on Scripture, and revised catechetical materials which include Scripture passages. The Word, God’s revelation and presence, not only is the source of our formation but also the summit to which we are called to be witnesses and doers. (RCL)

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” ~~ St. Jerome (347 – 419) who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. (SQPN)

The formation of the canon of scripture (the books in the Bible) has a complex history. One immediate clue to its complexity is the fact that Catholic Bibles include 46 books in the Old Testament, whereas Protestant and Jewish Bibles contain only 39 (although they organize them differently). The Catholic canon includes all the books of the Septuagint, a Greek translation from Alexandria that was current at the time of Christ. The Protestant reformers followed instead a collection in Hebrew from Palestine. Current scholarship has lessened the tension of this controversy however, and many Protestant Bibles today contain the seven books included in the Catholic Bible in a special section called “apocrypha.” (RCL)

Silently reflect on the following – How are you being called to respond to what has been presented in this session? What support do you need from the community to answer this call? (RCL)

Closing Prayer: O God, you have given us our senses that we might hear, see, touch, feel and smell the wonders of creation. Bless us so that we might use these senses to better hear your Word in order to put it into practice in our daily lives. Help us to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who have been pushed aside by society. May we, like Martha and Mary, become both hearers and doers of the Gospel message. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our brother, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

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Legend

RCL – Foundations in Faith from RCL Benziger.com

OCE – http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Lectionary

JOF – Journey of Faith, The Word into Life, Year C

LTP – 2010 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word

M – Magnificat, July 2010, Vol. 12, No. 5

SQPN  – http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-jerome/

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