The Better Part
July 21st, 2013 (see other dates)
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Discussion Questions for Reading 1Abraham is revered by both Jews and Christians because he was a man of faith. He believed God's promises, even when the odds seemed to be against him. In Eucharistic Prayer I, we ask God to accept our gifts "as you accepted the gifts of Abraham, our father in faith." We are children of Abraham because we believe in God's promises to us. What promises of God do you believe in?
We often hear of the faith of Abraham in the letters of Saint Paul. In one letter, we also read of another of Abraham's great gifts: hospitality. "Never neglect to welcome strangers, for some who did entertained angels." Abraham and Sarah welcomed the three young men, and received God's promise of a son. The strangers were messengers from God.
We often fear the stranger at our door, and it is wise to be cautious. But that should not prevent us from "welcoming strangers" whenever we can. Have new neighbors moved in? How can I welcome them to the neighborhood? Is there someone new at school who would appreciate a friend? Do I stick with old friends at the parish coffee hour or socials, or do I "welcome strangers" as Abraham and Sarah did? Each one of us can be a messenger from God in our own way. If we neglect to welcome others, we may miss the message of God's love given to us in a new friend! In what situations could you welcome newcomers?
For those who say, "I can't! I'm too shy! I get embarrassed!" you may find that, after welcoming others and saying, "Hi, I'm ____. Welcome to our church (or school, or block, or group)!" these feelings of shyness will gradually go away. You might like to role-play welcoming others and having short conversations. Remember that feelings of shyness are temporary. God's love is forever!
Reading 1 Genesis 18:1-10a
Reading 1 ReflectionOur reading from Genesis tells an appealing story about Abraham and Sarah. Three visitors appear unexpectedly before their tent. Abraham identifies them with the Lord. He and his wife, Sarah, rush around making preparations for a lavish meal to refresh their guests. Then their generous hospitality is even more generously rewarded. God, speaking through the guests, promises that the aged couple will have a son! For the Israelites, this story is a sign of how God's plan of salvation will be carried out through them. From the offspring of Abraham and Sarah, the Messiah will come.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2Reflect for a moment on "the mystery of Christ in you." How is Christ in you? Do you experience his presence in you? When? How does the fact that Christ is in you give you hope?
Christ is also "in us" because we are one body, the Church. Christ is in us as brothers and sisters. How can we show one another that we are brothers and sisters in Christ?that we are related, that we are family in Christ? What virtues (or strengths) do you need in your life to be a good brother or sister to others in Christ's family? (One example: compassion.) How do these strengths help you become more "complete" as an individual? How do they help us all in the one body of Christ?
Reading 2 Colossians 1:24-28
Reading 2 ReflectionSaint Paul suffered many hardships in preaching the Good News. In today's reading we learn that the suffering of all Christians, like the suffering of Christ, helps the Church to grow. As Christians grow in their understanding of "the mystery of Christ," they will become "complete."
Discussion Questions for GospelMost of our lives are a combination of Martha and Mary. (Even cloistered monks and nuns, devoted to lives of prayer, have hours of work every day.) However, if our lives are all-Martha-all-the-time, they may be out of balance. We may be missing "the better part." (There is an ironic joke that goes: "At the time of death, no one says, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.' ")
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its discussion of observing Sunday as a day of worship and rest, declares, "Traditional activities (sports, restaurants, etc.) and social necessities (public services, etc.) require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure" (Catechism, 2187). Most people in our country are working more hours a week than ever before. How does this affect their families, their children? What is the responsibility in this area for Catholic supervisors and managers?
How can we put more Mary-like listening into our lives? When do we make time to listen to our families? our friends? When do we make time to listen to Jesus?
Gospel Luke 10:38-42
Gospel ReflectionA guest shows up, probably unexpectedly, and the hostess, Martha, knocks herself out trying to do everything at once. The guest, Jesus, sits down and makes himself at home. The sister of the hostess, Mary, sits with Jesus, and listens thoughtfully. When Martha complains that she is doing all the work, Jesus tells her that she has forgotten the most important thing. She has neglected to listen to Jesus, whose words are more nourishing than any meal.
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
We Welcome YouIn the first reading, Abraham welcomes three strangers. He shares his hospitality with them by preparing food for them and giving them a place to rest and to wash up.
Like Abraham, we can welcome others. Prepare a banner for your classroom door. Write the word "welcome" across the top. Have the children cut pictures of people from magazines and glue these on the banner to form a collage. Explain that we are called to welcome all people and treat everyone with kindness.
Take Time to Listen to JesusIn the gospel, we hear how Jesus is welcomed into the home of his friends, Martha and Mary. While Martha is busy, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him. Jesus tells Martha that Mary is doing a good thing.
Even though we are busy at times, we need to take time to listen to Jesus. Make a watch to remind us of this. Give each child a small paper plate. Have them write numbers on this plate to resemble the face of a clock. Have them attach construction paper hands to the watch using a paper fastener. Make a band for the watch using strips of construction paper stapled to the plate. On the "watch band" write "Take time to listen to Jesus." Attach a magnet to the back of the watch and encourage the children to put these on their refrigerators at home to help them remember to make time to listen to Jesus.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Hospitality from the HeartTwo readings today show us what hospitality from the heart looks like. Abraham and Sarah treat their guests like royalty. Mary welcomes Jesus with her undivided attention. Share your understanding of hospitality by completing these statements.
The first thing I noticed about Abraham's hospitality was _________________________. The story from Genesis suggests that God wants us to ________________ strangers.
I (do, or do not) sympathize with Martha in the gospel story because _____________________________________.
Jesus suggests that Mary's form of hospitality is better because _______________________________________.
I believe that a Christian should treat all guests _____________________________.
How could you practice the virtue of hospitality this week? How can you include the poor and the needy in your hospitality?
Time with JesusIn today's busy, busy world, many people forget to take time out for the important things. That's what Mary, the sister of Martha, helps us to see in the gospel today. As a true disciple, she knew when to stop and listen to what Jesus was saying.
Draw a clock with its twelve hours marked. On your clock, plot out when you will take time to be with Jesus and listen to him. Remember, when we pray, we may certainly include praises and petitions. But we should also take time for quiet listening to Jesus.
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