Archbishop Lori’s’ Homily: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2022

Cathedral of of Mary Our Queen

Cobwebs in the Dining Room

Many years ago, my parents invited the local pastor to dinner.

At the time, I was a still quite young, and did not yet understand that Mom and Dad regarded this as a very special occasion.
Not unlike Martha, whom we just met in the Gospel, Mom outdid herself in preparing the dinner.
Nor did my parents spare any effort in ensuring that the pastor would feel welcome.
All was proceeding smoothly until, in the middle of dinner, I looked up at the dining room chandelier, and informed my poor mother that there were cobwebs “up there”.
Mom and Dad were mortified but, if memory serves, the pastor was amused.
Tongue-in-cheek, he said to Mom, “Margaret, you should do something about that!”

Today’s Scripture readings describe two special meals for special guests: the meal which Abraham and Sarah hosted for three mysterious visitors, and the meal which Martha and Mary hosted for the Lord Jesus.
It should not be lost on us that we are reflecting on those two meals even as we participate in the Paschal Banquet, the sacred meal that is the Eucharist.
What do we learn from the two meals described in today’s readings?
And how should this affect how we share in the Eucharist, this and every Sunday?

II. Genesis 18:1-10a

Let’s turn first to the meal Abraham and Sarah hosted for their mysterious visitors.
This meal took place not long after God made his covenant with Abraham.
Now, it seems, the Lord showed up to have a meal with Abraham and Sarah.
But is it one visitor or three?
The reading from Genesis seems to say that the Lord appeared to Abraham as he sat at the entrance to his tent, but when Abraham looked up he saw, not one but three visitors – suggesting, perhaps, a visit from the Three Persons of the Trinity.
At any rate, that is how many icons portray this Scripture passage.

Abraham and Sarah went all out to be hospitable.
Abraham offered his visitor(s) “a bit of food” but in fact prepared a feast.
Not only that, Abraham waited on the three was they ate and drank.
Abraham & Sarah hosted a meal for God, or so they thought, which raises a question: Did God drop by Abraham’s tent because he was hungry?
Was there a supply chain glitch such that the pantry in heaven was empty?
No, the gracious meal Abraham and Sarah set before their visitors was not about what they could do for God, but rather, what God would do for them.
As the visit concluded, the Lord promised that he would give them a son and an heir, and in that way would fulfill the covenant he had made with Abraham.

This doesn’t mean that the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah was worthless.
Not at all, for in the Responsorial Psalm we sang these words: “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”
The real hospitality that Abraham and Sarah offered the Lord was not a bullock, but rather blameless hearts – hearts committed to truth, justice, and love.

III. Luke 10:38-42

A. Let us now fast forward to the meal Martha and Mary hosted for Jesus in their home.
This meal also took place in the context of a covenant – for Jesus visited their home while on his way to Jerusalem where he would institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper and then, on the Cross, seal the new and eternal covenant in his Blood.

B. Martha, not unlike Abraham and Sarah, went out of her way to welcome the Lord.
Nor should we underestimate the reference in the Gospel to “household tasks”.
In those days, preparing a wonderful meal for a surprise visitor took a lot of work.
Martha had her hands full.
In the meantime, Mary her sister, sat near Jesus soaking in his every word.
By and by, Martha had had enough of this, so she asked the Lord to rebuke her sister.
But Jesus declined to do so.
In fact, he told Martha something about herself that we may see in ourselves: Like her, we are so often “anxious and upset about many things”, so much so, that we can lose sight of what is really necessary, namely, to welcome God’s Word into our hearts so as to enter into communion with him.

C. Martha knew the Lord & loved him, but was so caught up in the details of hospitality that she neglected to provide him with the one thing he wanted from her: an openness to sit and listen to the words of spirit and life that he spoke, to be open to his Person, and to the saving love he had come to bring not only to that household but to the whole world.
In the end, it was Mary, who got it right.

Martha thought only about what she could do for the Lord, not about her need for him or about what he wanted to do for her.

The Eucharistic Banquet: The Meal God Provides for Us

A. This brings us to the banquet, the sacred meal, in which we are now participating.
Just as the Triune God appeared at the entrance of Abraham’s tent, and just as Jesus showed up at the home of Martha and Mary, so too God-is-with-us; the Triune God is present in our midst.
Not unlike Abraham, Sarah, and Martha, we have made preparations.
Every Sunday Mass requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
We want this Cathedral and every church to be a dwelling-place worthy of the Lord.
We want to celebrate the Liturgy with reverence & with all the skill at our command.
Yet, no one of us should imagine that we are providing a meal for God, or that we are enhancing God’s glory by taking part in the Mass.

As with Abraham and Sarah, as with Martha and Mary, so also with us: ‘The Mass is not a meal we host for God; it is something God does for us.’ (Bergsma)
We are here because of our need: our need to be healed and nourished by partaking of the meal the Lord has provided, namely, his own Body and Blood.
This is how we give God thanks and praise – not on our own but because of what he has done for us.
As we will say to God the Father in the Preface of this Mass, “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in grace, through Christ our Lord.”
It is the Lord Jesus, who speaks to us when the Scriptures are proclaimed.
It is the Lord’s Body and Blood, sacrificed in love for the forgiveness of our sins that is our food, our drink, our sustenance, our joy, our source of unity and peace.
The Eucharist is not our gift to the Lord but rather the Lord’s gift of himself to us – and only when we receive this gift of self with faith, attentiveness, humility & love can we in turn give ourselves to the Lord and to others in justice, love, and peace.

So, amid the many things about which we may be anxious or upset, let us, like Martha’s sister Mary, listen to the voice of the Lord and thus allow him to draw us to his table, the banquet of his sacrifice, there to heal us, redeem us, and nourish us with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation.
And may God bless us and keep us always in his love!

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.