July 17, 2022 – Love then Law

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings || Lecturas

Previous Years: 2016

Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA

English Recording & Transcript


[00:00:03] We sometimes forget that the gospel writers are inherently editors. Jesus, in his three year public ministry, would have done so many things and said so many things that it would have been impossible to record all of them. Saint John himself says so in his gospel, impossible to record all of them. And so the gospel writers did have to edit. They had to make choices. What are we going to include? What are we not going to include? And in that editorial process, they probably also would have chosen some of the order of things – not to be untrue to the chronology of Jesus’s life, but when you have so many things to choose from, you can choose to put some things here and some things there. So in St. Luke’s Gospel, we have last week’s gospel, which is Jesus giving us the two great commandments and the parable of the Good Samaritan. And then we have this week’s Gospel of Jesus with Martha and Mary. In the Medieval Times, when they divided the Gospels into chapters and verses, they didn’t see fit to separate these. Somehow, very likely, Saint Luke has in his mind some kind of connection between the two. Well, I will offer for your consideration that the connection between the two that we can see is that last week was a summary of the Jewish law and this week is an application of the Jewish law.

[00:01:37] What do I mean? Well, first we have to remember Jesus is thoroughly Jewish. God gave us the Jewish law. That is equally the revelation of God. We can’t ignore the Old Testament. God gave us the Jewish law and that prepared the Jews for the Messiah. Jesus was intentionally born into a society completely formed by the law of the Old Testament. Jesus in another part of the Gospel says that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. We can never put Jesus in opposition to the Jewish law. So last week, when we had our gospel, he didn’t say, Here are two commandments instead of the Jewish law. It was, in fact, a question of how would we summarize the Jewish law? And the summary he gave us is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Again, not in opposition to the Jewish law, but a summary of it. Everything in the Jewish law is oriented toward these two things. This is the hermeneutical key. This is the interpretive lens by which the Jewish law begins to make sense. All of the things in the Old Testament, again, cannot be set aside. They were necessary. And there’s nowhere in the Gospels that you’ll see Jesus violate the Jewish laws. But He gives us the summary to remind us why.

[00:03:07] At the time of Jesus it was very common to do all of the externals. They were very careful with the Old Testament law. The Pharisees, the scribes were incredibly careful to carry out each of the dictates. But his criticism of them throughout the Gospels is that they forgot why they were doing it. They did all the externals, but they forgot why. The summary of the law reminds us why. The purpose of the law is to love God. It teaches us how to love God and to love our neighbor. It teaches us what justice looks like in terms of our neighbor. We can stand there and we can say, I love God, but if we don’t do anything with that, how do we even know? We’re body and soul. We’re tangible beings. We have to carry out the things that we say. If you were to turn to your spouse and say, I love you and then ignore them for the rest of the day, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Similarly with God, I love God. How am I going to carry that out?

[00:04:12] We see that with Abraham in our first reading. He loves God, the Lord visits him – it’s an interesting interplay where they go between the singular and the plural, in the Hebrew we have the Lord visits Abraham, and then we talk about these three guys. Christians have always seen this as an Old Testament prefiguration of the doctrine of the Trinity – even so, God visits Abraham. Abraham loves God, but he doesn’t just stand there and say, Lord, I love you and then goes about his business. He says, Because I love God, I have to serve him. I have to bring him this meal. The Lord doesn’t need a meal from anybody. He can eat on His own. He doesn’t need food, but he brings him to this meal because he wants to carry it out. That’s the Jewish law. Jewish law is I love God, I’m in covenant with God, the Lord has saved me, I’m thankful for him, and so I’m going to offer sacrifice in the temple. I am going to follow these dictates that he gives me. It’s incredibly important. And then, of course, we love our neighbor, because if God loves somebody and we love God, then we’d better love the people that God loves and we love our neighbor by carrying out acts of justice for them. So last week was a summary of the law. It was the hermeneutical key. What is the purpose of the law?

[00:05:25] Today seems to be the application. When we think about this gospel, we often think about false dichotomies. As my grandmother always complained when she heard this gospel at Mass, she’d say, Well, somebody had to cook, otherwise nobody was going to eat. Fair enough, Grandma. It’s true. Somebody had to serve. And the church is wonderful here because she pairs the gospel with an Old Testament reading all the time. It’s always paired. We go through the Gospel in order, so we’re just going through Luke in Ordinary Time. But then the church, when she wrote this lectionary, she asked, What’s the most applicable Old Testament reading to pair it with? And nowhere in the Old Testament reading today do we hear that hospitality was bad. Nor do you hear that it was bad that Abraham cooked a meal. It is seen as the glory of Abraham that He would receive the Lord like this. So the purpose of the Gospel is not to say, don’t cook for your guests, don’t do housework.

[00:06:27] Instead, again, it’s the application of the gospel. Notice that Martha is not carrying out the hospitality with the same joy as Abraham. Abraham is overjoyed, excited, frenetic even, to offer this this meal for the Lord who has visited him. Martha is bitter and angry. She is burdened with much serving. She is unhappy that she has to do this. And because she’s unhappy with herself, she’s unhappy with her own burdens, she’s complaining against her sister. I don’t want to do this. Why doesn’t Mary have to help me with this thing that I don’t want to do? Well, again, application of the law, application of the summary.

[00:07:09] The purpose of the externals is to reflect the foundation. The purpose of the Jewish law was to reflect love of God and love of neighbor in the concrete, in the tangible. The purpose of the hospitality of Jesus, the hospitality that Martha wanted to show Jesus was or should have been founded on love of Jesus, celebration of Jesus. Martha had forgotten that. She had forgotten that the whole point was to be in communion with the Lord. That’s what the hospitality was for. Mary had not forgotten. Mary knew what the foundation was. Mary knew that step one is to be in communion, to be in relationship with Jesus, to receive Him with joy. You can just imagine her sitting at his feet and soaking in his words with incredible joy, just so thankful that he was in her home. I like to believe that given another 15 to 30 minutes, maybe 2 hours, I don’t know, Mary would have would have begun to serve. She would have gotten up and done that. But she started where she needed to. She started with the foundation. She started with that relationship with Jesus. Martha had forgotten that went straight to the externals, but forgot what the internals were all about first.

[00:08:33] Now this deeply matters for us and our faith. My crusade, I’m sure Father Bryan’s crusade, the entire purpose of my priesthood, the question that I asked myself over and over and over again, the real question of our time, our generation, is this mass apostasy that we’re seeing, all of these people leaving the faith. In fact, by my money, by my count, we are losing more people now than we have lost to the church since the Reformation. And then that was the most people we’d lost since Arianism. It’s like the third great apostasy in the history of Christianity. Only the third time we have lost this number of people. Why? How can we reverse that? How can we convince people that the faith matters, that our children shouldn’t leave when they hit high school and they start asking these questions? Again. This is the entire purse of my life. I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about it. One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that we have fallen into living out a Christianity based on Martha. What I mean is it’s so easy for us to fall into talking of Christianity as the externals to make Christianity a checkbox, a bunch of things that we have to do to be a good Christian.

[00:09:56] And this happens on the liberal and the conservative sides, right? On the liberal side, you might say, well, Christianity is only about or primarily about, or you can only tell you’re Christian if you serve the poor or work for climate justice or have the right positions on this, that or the other social justice issue. And the conservative side, we do it by saying, you know, you have to say all the right things about abortion. You have to be in front of the abortion clinic. You have to say all the right things about sexuality. Both are good and important. Christians need to do both of those things. The Jewish law can’t be set aside. Jesus didn’t say he came to get rid of the externals. The law matters and we are Christians through those things. But I think it has been easy for us for generations to forget that those are essentially follow-on facts. Those are the externals through which we live out the foundation, which is the relationship with Jesus.

[00:10:58] How many of us have had a Christianity where we didn’t want to be here at Mass? We didn’t want to do the thing we’re called to do. We didn’t want to carry out justice in the world or try to evangelize the faith, where we felt dry, where we felt like Martha, where we were bitter and angry about having to do the things our faith calls us to do. I’d say all of us go through that period at least once. Some of us that lasts for years, some of us that lasts for a lifetime. There are incredible things to be said, particularly for our older generations, because they were taught that even if you go through that dry period, you still show up, you still do what you’re called to do. And there is so much grace in that perseverance. But it’s not where the Lord wants to leave us. The Lord doesn’t want us to be Martha burdened with much serving, where we become bitter and angry against the Lord Himself. Instead, what the Lord wants for us, even if we have to persevere from time to time. The Lord wants a joy and a Thanksgiving in the faith. He wants us to know that this is the thing that fulfills our humanity, this thing that calls us into relationship with himself. It’s been so easy for generations for us to forget that the foundation of our faith is a relationship with Jesus. If I fall into a bitterness about my Christianity, if I don’t have that relationship with Jesus, how can I hand it on to somebody? If we teach future generations that Christianity is all of these external things we have to do first, you do those before you can consider yourself a Christian, well, of course they’re going to leave because they’re bitter and angry, too. And at some point, enough generations get bitter and angry, and they just, they just go. They just hypothesize. The way we fix that, the way we heal our church, the way we call people back to Jesus, is to call ourselves back to a relationship with the Lord, to remind ourselves that the first thing that we do as Christians is to sit at the feet of the Lord, to receive from him, to be with him.

[00:13:05] If we spend enough time with the Lord like that, spend enough time with the Eucharist, spend enough time with the rosary or with prayer, spend enough time reading the Bible where we learn about Him in the Old Testament and the new. If we take in that relationship with Jesus, if we have that joy sitting at his feet, then all the other stuff comes afterward. All of our work for justice for the poor and the marginalized, all our work to evangelize the faith, all of our work to make sure that we stay sane on issues of gender and sexuality. All of that makes sense after our relationship with Jesus. We have to love the Lord first. We have to be like Mary first. And then when we are called to do the serving of Martha, we won’t do it with bitterness. We won’t do it with complaining. We’ll do it because we are so excited that we have that relationship with Jesus. We’ll do it because we are so excited that He is in our home and we have the opportunity to love him concretely with our actions.


La semana pasada, el Evangelio nos entregó un resumen de la Ley Judía: “Amarás al Señor tu Dios, con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma, con todas tus fuerzas y con todo tu ser, y a tu prójimo como a ti mismo”.  Recuerde, esta no es una ley nueva. Esto no es un reemplazo de la ley judía. Este es un resumen de la ley que encontramos en el Antiguo Testamento. En ninguna parte Jesús dice que los judíos deben dejar de hacer todas las cosas en la Ley, pero les da este resumen para que recuerden por qué tienen que llevar a cabo todas las Leyes del Antiguo Testamento. Cada Ley dada por Dios a los judíos era para ayudarlos a saber cómo amar a Dios y amar a su prójimo.

Este recordar por qué hacemos algo y por qué es importante nos ayuda a explicar mejor nuestro Evangelio de hoy. El objetivo del Evangelio no es decir que Marta se equivocó al cocinar o mostrar hospitalidad. Después de todo, Abraham muestra una hospitalidad increíble en nuestra primera lectura de hoy, y su hospitalidad no fue condenada sino recompensada con la promesa de un hijo. Es importante mostrar amor por nuestros huéspedes, y es bueno que Martha lo estuviera haciendo.

Sin embargo, parece que Marta estaba amargada y resentida por eso. Si estuviera entusiasmada con cocinar y mostrar hospitalidad a Jesús, no se habría quejado contra su hermana, porque toda la actividad se habría hecho con alegría. Pero Marta claramente no quiere estar cocinando, y probablemente comenzó a quejarse contra María en su corazón mucho antes de que se quejara con la boca. Todos lo hemos hecho. Todos nos hemos encontrado haciendo una tarea que realmente no queremos hacer y murmurando para nosotros mismos sobre cómo nadie nos está ayudando.

Así que cuando Jesús dice que María eligió la mejor parte, no está diciendo que es mejor nunca comer y nunca servir. Él está diciendo que María ha recordado por qué todos estaban allí. María recordó que el propósito de la hospitalidad es celebrar y honrar a un invitado, y que, con el Señor, primero necesitaba honrarlo escuchándolo y estando con él.  Me gusta pensar que, dado un poco más de tiempo, Maria también habría comenzado a ayudar con la cocina. Y si Marta hubiera recordado pasar tiempo con el Señor primero, habría tenido mucho más gozo en llevar a cabo su tarea.

Todo esto tiene mucho que decirnos acerca de nuestra fe. ¿Cuántos de nosotros hemos resentido alguna vez nuestra fe? ¿Te molesta tener que ir a Misa? ¿Te molesta tener que orar? ¿Le molesta tener que diezmar? ¿Te molesta tener que hacer algo que el Señor o nuestra fe nos llaman a hacer?  ¿Cuántos de nosotros nos hemos amargado o enojado por ser católicos o creer lo que se supone que debemos creer?

El cristianismo y el catolicismo, al igual que la cocina, no son fáciles. No siempre son divertidos. Se necesitan trabajo y dedicación. Lo que significa que es muy fácil para nosotros llegar a ser como Marta, enfocados en las cosas que estamos obligados a hacer y olvidando por qué las hacemos.

En cambio, como María, debemos recordar que el fundamento de nuestra fe, la motivación para todo lo que hacemos como católicos, es nuestra relación con Jesús. Lo primero que debemos hacer es regocijarnos en la presencia del Señor: su presencia en nuestro mundo, su presencia en nuestra Iglesia, su presencia en nuestras vidas. Es un regalo tan increíble que Jesús ha elegido visitarnos y vivir con nosotros y bendecirnos y guiarnos. Ese tiempo que pasamos a sus pies, escuchándolo, es lo que nos motiva para todo lo demás.

Permítanme ser claro: Marta y María tuvieron que cocinar. Tenían que demostrar esa hospitalidad. Al igual que nosotros, los cristianos, necesitamos ir a misa, orar, diezmar y servir. Pero el orden importa. Pasar tiempo con Jesús primero importa. Aprender de Jesús importa.  Porque si no pasamos ese tiempo con Jesús primero, nos resentiremos de todo lo que supuestamente nos vemos obligados a hacer por nuestra fe. Pero si pasamos ese tiempo con Jesús primero, no nos sentiremos forzados, sino que nos sentiremos alegres al vivir nuestro amor a Dios y el amor al prójimo.

1 Comment

  1. rosmri says:

    I read this with so much agreement, so much concern for those who leave the Church, and my own mental absence for quite a few years in my middle life. But today I seek Jesus, and I seek to grow to love Him and I pray for that. I read a lot. I love Scott Hahn, and have read the Lambs Supper which completely changed my attitude toward Mass. I am now reading The Creed…. such a great and revealing book. I am looking for books about the early Fathers.

    But most of all, the one author who stayed in my mind all through the years when I excused myself from Mass because of work, or other reasons, it was Teillhard de Chardin, and his writing about the union of Christ and the world, which I understood not very well, but because I grew up where there were no trees, and then in my teenage years went to the county, where I used to hug the trees (!), everything I read from Teillhard made me remember Christ as the One to come Who is waiting for me and is here in every leaf, every twig, every cloud, and on Mt. Baker. Not pantheism, but Christ emanating as Teillhard says, and the idea makes me so happy.

    Now I have read The Mass on the World again, so fantastically spiritual and beautiful.

    I think the answer for so many Christians today is to understand Christ as present in the very flowers we put on our table, in the trees in our backyards, in the words we type in our computers….. so very present…. so the Mass carries all this up to God on the paten of the priest.

    I cannot fully understand all that Teillhard writes, his terminology is so complex….but he has always moved me and somehow made sense from when I first came across his writing when I was about 20 years old. I want to find a way to relate his union of science and religion with the dangers of climate change….. such a challenge because there is so little coming from the Church on this. I had several copies of Laudate Si, but am still hoping to get around to reading it.

    Anyway, what you write is always so clear and cogent, and deeply appreciated. Rose Marie

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