Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time C – Christ in us, The Mystery

July 21, 2019

           In this Sunday’s second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (1:24-28), Paul speaks about a mystery, “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. …  this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

             Usually when we use the word mystery, we think of a story that has an ending we try to solve before we get to the last page of a book or the last episode of a TV drama.  When the Church uses the term mystery, it goes much deeper.  For the Church, a mystery is a truth that is incomprehensible to the reason and knowable only through divine revelation.  The Early Church referred to the sacraments as the mysteries.  When adults are about to come into the faith they are anointed with oil so they may have the strength and the grace to be open to the Mystery.  At the most solemn time in the Mass, after the Bread and Wine have been consecrated and become the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest proclaims: the Mystery of Faith, and we all respond: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.”  Paul reminds the Colossians and us that we have received the Mystery, the Mystery that Christ is in us.  Sadly, when it comes to this Mystery many of us are clueless.

             We go about our day, so busy that we overlook the purpose for our actions.  We overlook the reason for our being.  We forget about the presence of Christ.  Like Martha in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) we are concerned with doing instead of being.  Martha was busy doing this and that in her efforts to prepare for Jesus’ visit.  Mary, her sister, was concerned with being, being with Jesus.   While preparing this homily I was wondering whether there is a connection between the story of Mary and Martha and last Sunday’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  The parable of the Good Samaritan and the story about Mary and Martha appear only in Luke’s Gospel. I am not saying that this is intentional on Luke’s part, but it does provide an interesting homiletic point, a mystery to explore.  The point of the story of Mary and Martha is that Martha is so consumed with the minor details of life that she neglects the very important things that can more easily be put off. She works hard to serve their guest Jesus while her sister Mary simply sits and listens to Jesus. Martha is understandably frustrated, but Jesus offers her this gentle rebuke:  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:41-42)

          In last Sunday’s gospel reading (10:25-37), Luke doesn’t tell why the priest and the Levite go their way without stop and help. They could been too busy.  So do we. Why do we often fail to help those who obviously have needs, even though we know that this is the type of thing we should do. I guess it’s simply because our life is just too busy. We put our own agenda like driving kids to dance recital, hockey tournament, piano practice, watching a football game ahead of God’s agenda like helping someone with car problem on the roadside or going to church on Sundays.  We do not see our need for God, we only see what needs to be done for ourselves, our children. We want to do the minor details that feel so urgent, and thereby neglect the truly important things like helping those in need. Is this starting to sound like the story of Mary and Martha? There is a clear distinction in behaviour between the sisters Mary and Martha when Jesus arrives at their home. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for how we can react to the teachings and presence of Jesus and God in our own lives. While Martha becomes preoccupied with the preparations of their home, she misses the opportunity to listen and learn from Jesus. When she pleads to Jesus that Mary should help her, He responds, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  

It is better to give our full attention when in the presence of the Lord, whether personally as Mary was or when reading the Word of God as we do now. Doing so provides us with the best opportunity to fully understand and incorporate the wisdom from scripture into our beliefs and actions, to experience the Mystery that Christ is in us.  We need to pray. We harbour, we treasure the presence of Christ within each of us, within our homes and in our community.  We need to make time every day to recognize this presence within us.  We need to stop and hear the Lord in the silence.  We cannot allow the many concerns of our lives to hide the only thing that matters, the presence of Jesus, His presence within us, His presence in those we love, and His presence in those who reach out to us.  We cannot allow anything to dull His Presence.  We don’t know our future, even tomorrow may never be ours.   Whatever will be will be, remember to take time to pray, to be with Him.  When we make the time to be in His presence, when we join Mary of Bethany in just enjoying the Lord in our lives, we will find ourselves walking a road less traveled, a road of serenity in the middle of hectic activities.  When we choose to nurture the presence of the Lord within us, we, like Mary, will be choosing the better part.