Our readings this week feature godly hospitality. Abraham’s hospitality is rewarded by his wife’s pregnancy. Martha feeds and cares for Christ and Mary cares more so by listening to him. Lets confess any failure to have open hearts and hospitable homes.
We Irish are proud of our hospitality but are we as open as we used to be? Has an imported TV spirit hardened some hearts? I think of a scene from Alice Taylor’s The Woman of the House. Kate returns from England to attend her parents’ funeral to find her old home locked. She recalls when her parents were alive That house was always open, neighbors came freely for a chat or cup of tea. Now Martha is the woman of the house. Her door is closed, the door of her heart. God forbid we’re like her. Security is vital today but so is hearts. Neighborliness in the old days was part of our Christian culture. There was much poverty, of course, but the great thing was that all were in it together, there was less room for heads in the air, more room for simple humanity.
Visiting homes in town parishes now, I’m shocked to find some don’t even know their neighbors, let alone relate to them. As someone said our generation has seen a gradual narrowing of the family, from the extended family to the nuclear family to the one-parent family, to the closed door family. Does lack of neighborliness come with affluence, people in big homes with electronic gates shutting neighbors out? Neighborliness does require humility, no “delusions of grandeur” as my mother used to say. Our fading community spirit is tragic. As the poet says no man is an island, we need others, especially when trouble comes.
Our gospel shows us this in action. Martha and Mary were open house people; they received Jesus warmly. Calling to them, hot, dusty, and hungry from teaching and healing, he was washed and fed. Though a reasonably well off family they have no delusions of grandeur. And with their hospitality went openness to God. Mother Theresa used to say that when we shut ourselves off from God we can also close ourselves off from others. The Pope says when the light of faith dims other lights dim as well. Martha partially suffers from this; she’s a worldly fusser. She thinks like many today that material things are enough. But we don’t live on bread alone. Mary sits and listens. As Jesus’s neighbor she hears his human fears on the way to Calvary.
That’s the better part, our spiritual depth and humanity. When I go to hospitals to visit, I see nurses and doctors bustling around efficiently, That’s fine. But the more successful ones treat patients as persons as well. In a strange place, lonely, afraid, its vital to know someone cares enough to listen.
Mary is such a one, she listens to Christ’s god-given wisdom but to also his needs as a human being. Like Kate’s parents, open to all humanity, Christians need to be open and caring, with homes where both God and people are loved. How many women tell me of husbands, he spends his time reading the paper, I can’t talk to him. Or husbands say she’s great around the house and with the children but I feel I’m living with a stranger. In the struggle to live, we mustn’t forget the better part; culture, dreaming, God, prayer, wisdom, and above all love. A kiss, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen is as vital as food, clothes or shelter. With neighbor, work mates or at home, its our humane love which make us sons and daughters of God. Hard worldliness, isolating ourselves from God and others in material grandeur, makes us hard of heart, empty for this world and the next. But Christ is lord of caring love, for happiness here and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people, his caring listening presence to others in faith-filled, warm welcoming homes, lets profess our faith.
Prayers of the Faithful
Lets petition the Father now for what we need as his family.
For our Holy Father and the bishops of the church that they may be examples of parental care for the faithful, and lights of faith, humanity and love to the world..
For our civil leaders that the people they serve may be more that just numbers, may they serve the humane and spiritual needs of each citizen by means of caring and godly programs of government.
For youth, may they continue our great tradition of faith-filled and open-hearted hospitable homes, in the world of today..
For ourselves in our homes that like Martha and Mary we may continue to make Christ part of our family and welcome with open generous hearts all those who come into our houses…
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the poor that through our care and help they may know the love of God..
For the dead that our love and care for them may extend beyond the grave in prayer and remembrance until they may come safely to their heavenly home where we will be reunited one day.
And we ask these prayers through Christ, our loving Lord forever and ever, amen.
I talked to a person who had worked with Mother Theresa once. She told me that Mother Theresa always stressed that as well as practical care her sisters should love the poor patients above all, take time to speak to and listen to them as precious children of God. She said that was God’s approach, he loves us intimately and individually as we are. Lets pray that we’ll try at least in some small way to be the same kind humane faith-filled presence to those around us..Hail Mary.