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 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

July 21, 2019

Lk 10,38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”


In other words…


In the years immediately after Vatican II --from the mid-1960s onwards-- much anxiety arose from what was being taught not so much by the official Church but by theologians and Church ministers who were influenced by post conciliar confusion. Contradictory voices wanted to be heard. One area where this confusion was felt was in the teaching on the love of God and service to one’s neighbor (prayer and action; the horizontal and the vertical) – placed  in contrast with each other, as if, they were two diametrically opposed realities.


The confusion stemmed from questions such as these: Is the time spent with God in prayer a time lost because it could have been used in service to others? Do we really need to spend time in prayer or is commitment to the service of others enough? Is it really true that service to my neighbor is already prayer? In the confusion, a good number believed that there was really no need to set aside a time for prayer because one’s commitment to serve others was enough. I know many of my contemporaries, some acquaintances among religious congregations and the diocesan clergy believed in this new understanding of one’s relationship with God. After years of social involvement, they left the priesthood and the religious life. They became victims of this confusion we are talking about.


Twenty centuries of Christian life have taught us that the changes in the life of the Church happen like a pendulum. Something pushes the pendulum to swing one way and the other and then back to where it was before; but after some time the pendulum again rests in the middle. Today, the pendulum about the issue of prayer and social activism is still oscillating but it is obvious that after years of confusion, the pendulum is about to rest again in the middle.


Today, nobody speaks anymore about that contrast between the love of God and one’s commitment to social activism. The example of many saints has made us realize that the essential, as our Gospel today says, is our rapport with God, our experience of God’s love which urges us to love others and thus commit ourselves to the service of our neighbors.


The love of God is like the sap of the tree that brings life to its leaves and fruits. Without this sap the tree cannot have leaves much less fruits. One’s commitment to service for others which does not flow from the love of God does not have any significance. The more one loves God the more one commits him/herself to the service of others; the more one is rooted in God’s love, the more will he/she commit him/herself totally to service for others. Today’s gospel is right when it says: “only one thing is necessary; Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her”.

– Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (VCR, CKMS, QC)