Tuesday 20th August 2019

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Serve Others With Charity

July 16, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER

Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C)

Readings: Gen. 18:1-10a
Col. 1:24-28
Luke 10:38-42

In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Martha welcoming Jesus and serving Him. Martha became burdened with the task of serving and asked the Lord if He did not care that Mary, her sister who was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him, had left Martha to do all the serving. Jesus replied that Martha was anxious and worried about many things and that Mary had chosen the better part.
We can contrast this with the story in the first reading when Abraham welcomes the three men who were walking past his tent. Abraham brought water to bathe their feet, told Sarah to make some rolls, asked a servant to slaughter a steer, and obtained some curds and milk to set before these men to eat. We are told Abraham waited on the men while they ate.
What is important to notice in these readings is that the serving is not the issue. Abraham was blessed by the angels with the promise that Sarah would bear a son within the year. The context suggests that this promise is a reward for Abraham’s service. So, why does Jesus rebuke Martha and say Mary had chosen the better part?
Immediately prior to telling Martha that Mary had chosen the better part, Jesus told Martha that only one thing is necessary. Of course, we could simply say that Jesus is all that is necessary, and that would certainly be true. However, from the context it would seem that the one thing necessary is charity. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him, but if that were a matter of laziness or a kind of idol worship, our Lord would not have tolerated it.
Mary was at the feet of Jesus because of her charity. Certainly, it was charity on the part of our Lord to teach Mary, but it was also a matter of charity for Mary to be listening and learning. In other words, by what she was doing, Mary was also serving the Lord. What Martha was doing was serving the physical needs of our Lord, but her motive seems to have been somewhat selfish. She wants to be noticed for what she is doing, rather than being humble and serving with charity.
Recall that charity is doing what is best for the other without expecting anything in return. This “anything” is not merely a matter of being repaid, but even of being noticed, thanked, or complimented. It may be incumbent on the person being served to thank you or to compliment you for your service, but if the person fails to do so, we have to accept it humbly and remind ourselves that we were not doing this task for any selfish reason. If the person does say something, we need to accept it humbly and give glory to the Lord.
It is important for us to reflect on these matters because we all have opportunities to serve others. In many situations this is done by providing for the physical needs of another person, as both Abraham and Martha were doing. Serving others can also be done by listening to someone, as Mary was doing, or by allowing someone to talk about his troubles or even simply being with someone and spending time with that person.
In the second reading, however, St. Paul presents another way of serving others that many of us may not think about: suffering. He reminds us of our Lord’s suffering that was done for us out of pure charity. But now St. Paul tells us he rejoices in his sufferings because he is filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.
Every person is going to have difficulties in life, but the real issue is how we handle them. The saints rejoice in them because they unite their sufferings to the suffering of Jesus as an act of pure charity. We can also offer our sufferings for the good of others: a loved one, an enemy, someone who needs grace or conversion, or the souls in Purgatory.
St. Paul also speaks of another kind of charity: stewardship. He was entrusted with a mission by the Lord, and his service to Jesus is to carry out his mission with love. Each of us has also been entrusted with many kinds of stewardship: a spouse, children, employees, authority, finances, tasks, and so on. We can do these things as a matter of duty or we can do them as a matter of service with charity.
Martha and Abraham were both entrusted with a kind of stewardship; Martha and Abraham both served. Martha’s service was tainted with selfishness; Abraham’s service was done in charity. Each of us can ask: In my stewardship and service, what is my disposition?

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