A homily for July 20/21. 16th Sunday. Fr. J. Barry
Today’s Gospel of Luke and Genesis readings are about welcoming situations, and welcoming people in the Bible. They may teach us some lessons. After all, we have lives as Christians where we are called to welcome others, personally, or as a family, wherever we are, including when at church. It’s the call to “love our neighbor” and to “love one another” that is clearly communicated by the Lord God for us to live in new covenant with Him.
Let’s think of an example of someone being welcoming here this Summer. Well, we have homes and families in them here that may be hosting someone, like for their vacation or visit. I had such a situation of being welcomed somewhere recently. A few weeks ago, I went down to middle Virginia to see my sister and her family, as they welcomed me and many other family members for a two day visit. They had a social planned around a family event, and it was nice to see the efforts my sister put out to welcome her four siblings and our mom and aunt and other families. My sister was accommodating and welcoming. I enjoyed the time, as we all did. I am thankful to her invite to come down.
In the gospel today, Jesus is visiting the home of Martha and Mary, upon her invitation for Him and His disciples to drop in and eat and stay over at their inn, in what today would be like a big bed-and-breakfast place, also sharing quarters with the host family. It was in Bethany, an on-the-well-travelled roadplace that was quite convenient to a trip to and fro Jerusalem. Jesus accepted their welcome. He enjoyed the food and the place to rest his head, and as a blessing back to them, he called the two women hosts to sit down with Him, an unusual invite for a Jewish rabbi to share with a woman in that time. Jesus invited them to be in close friendship with Him, and to let them be taught and discipled by Him. Mary had first gladly taken the favor, and Martha, as we hear in the Gospel, has to be coaxed a bit out of the kitchen, to come and receive “the better part.” Meaning, Jesus wanted to impart to both of them some special attention and grace (the better part of His visit). He loved both of them so well, and wanted to show His appreciation for their goodness and belief upon Him.
I think the first lesson of welcoming here is that Jesus felt quite comfortable staying in Bethany with Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus in the inn. He felt welcomed there. This spirit is what I am trying to communicate is every Catholic’s call—to have a welcoming heart to God, and have a welcoming way to others—all in some means of good discernment.
Wouldn’t we like to be in such good light, like Martha and Mary’s situation, in having Jesus feel so welcome around them, into their hearts, their homes, their place of worship? So, today, here is a prayer one might say, in response: Welcome to our lives, O Lord, to this your parish, please come by here much and grace us with Your Presence. We have this Mass today and our company here, saying: Be at home here with us, as our gathering is a welcome sign to You. Come to Your people, Your friends and family here, O Jesus.
Are we being as welcoming as you’d like in your lives?
As your pastor, and with our parish council, and with some staff members—we have discerned a way to be more welcoming to the community—from the parish’s side. We want to throw an open social, for families and youngsters, at a Labor Day Sunday September 1st party. It will be a two hour and a half party of air slides, moon bounces, games, food and music—down in the Amadeo Room and outside of it on its side lawn. It will be a party where we welcome our neighbors with kids to drop by, for free, to have an end of Summer social, before school starts up. It is a social for the parish to welcome anyone who wants to come in and have some fun. We hope that the event can help any neighbors and families around here, to feel our good neighborliness, and feel a bit more familiar with our parish, in an easy setting, for a short and fun while. It is our inaugural year to do it. It is a way to live out this weekend’s theme in the Scriptures of being welcoming. Let’s give it a try.