Here is the text of the homily Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing (Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Church in North Bay Ontario) preached on July 21, the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
In the past number of days, thousands of young people have been travelling to Rio de Janeiro, where they will participate this week in the celebration of World Youth Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is taken from the 28th chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel: Go, make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Throughout the coming week, the young people who have traveled to the Brazilian capital will be invited to sit with Jesus, to rest in his presence and then to serve by going out from their encounter in Rio to all corners of the world, in order to share the good news that they have discovered, and to make disciples of all nations. This week, we too who are gathered in this place are encouraged by the scriptures we have just listened to, to sit with Jesus, to rest in his presence, and then to serve.Saint Luke recounts one of the occasions when Jesus and his disciples paid a visit to the home of Martha and Mary, not far from Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany. We are not told much about the words that Jesus was recounting, because in this case, Luke wanted his readers to understand the importance of sitting in the presence of the Master. Ever since the time of the first disciples, anyone who wants to follow in Jesus’ footsteps must first learn to sit at his feet, to be still in his presence and to listen to his voice. Sitting still means that we must let go of other preoccupations which can often distract us from listening. Martha was only doing what any woman of her time would have done in her place; the rule of hospitality among the Jewish community still dictates that if visitors should come knocking, we should do all in our power to provide them with a welcome, including food and drink and even some time to sleep if necessary, so that they might truly be refreshed before they continue their journey. When Martha came to Jesus, asking him to tell Mary to help, she would have been mystified by Jesus response: you are worried and distracted by many things … Mary has chosen the better part. Even today, Jesus invites us to sit still in his presence, to learn from him. What other preoccupations distract us from doing this?Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis begins with Abraham at prayer, sitting at the entrance to his tent. While he was sitting in God’s presence, God called him into service. He didn’t see the three men coming, but recognized them and begged them to accept his hospitality before continuing their journey. Like Mary and Martha, Abraham knew the importance of extending hospitality to travelers and strangers, so he invited them to rest while he brought them water to wash their feet … and bread to refresh them before they continued on their way. Have we had the privilege of welcoming strangers and travelers in our midst … of caring for their needs … of providing a place of rest for them? Have we ever neglected such an invitation, and left others wanting for the hospitality that we are required by faith to extend to all those in whose faces we see Jesus himself?In his letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul refers to himself as the servant of the Church according to God’s commission. According to this same commission, other disciples have also been called to serve, including deacons, priests, bishops and people of faith throughout the last two millennia. Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis, the 266th Successor of Saint Peter, will travel to Rio de Janeiro to meet with the young people, and to invite them to accept the invitation issued by Jesus to every disciple from the day of our baptism: to be a servant according to God’s commission. Jesus still calls his followers today to serve in his name: to be examples of love and peace; to be instruments of forgiveness and mercy; to be agents of a promise which has been made to each one of us. Have we heard the voice of the Lord which issues this invitation to us today? Have we responded? If not, why not? Should there be any reason for doubt or fear on our part, let us surrender it to Him, for he has already assured us through the life giving sacrifice of his son that nothing can separate us from his love. Go therefore; make disciples of all the nations by modeling for others the joy of being a disciple of Jesus. By your example of faith, show the world the gift of faith that is strengthened each day in those who sit and rest in the presence of their master, and who accept his invitation to serve generously in his name.
Photo: The Christ the Redeemer statue is seen in a distance view of Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro July 20. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)