Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: July 17th, 2016

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – C


Genesis 18: 1-10a

Colossians 1: 24-28

Luke 10: 38-42


Hospitality is a warm virtue.  It teaches us how to welcome other people when we are hosts and hostesses, and how to be welcomed by others when we are guests.

Hospitality is the first of the four pillars of stewardship as a way of life.  The other three are:  prayer, formation and service.  Hospitality is the first pillar because if we do not make people feel welcome, there will not be anyone to pray with, to offer formation to, or to serve.

There are two rules for guests that I learned a long time ago.  The first is:  “To be a good guest, show up on time.”  Don’t show up too early, don’t be late, but show up on time.  The second rule is:  “Have the good sense to know when to go home.”

There are some other rules that sometimes sound a bit harsher, but make a solid point:  “On the first day you’re a guest.  On the second day you’re a burden.  And on the third day you’re a pest.”  I suppose this is a way of saying, “Don’t overstay your welcome.”

The Irish have a set of verses about welcoming guests that may be a bit “over the top”:  “Come in the evening, come in the morning.  Come when expected, come without warning.  Thousands of welcomes you’ll find here before you.  And the oftener you come the more we’ll adore you!”

Well, I do think that is a bit over-stated, but it does tell us about an attitude of generous hospitality.  And we find hospitality as a theme in all three of the Scripture passages today.

In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, Abraham and his wife Sarah are paid a visit by three messengers from God.  What do Abraham and Sarah do?  They welcome them.  Sarah bakes her famous rolls and Abraham has a steer slaughtered.  They serve them a wonderful dinner.

After dinner, one of the guests says to Abraham, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son” – (whose name would be Isaac).  What great hospitality and welcome we see here!

In the second reading from St. Paul to the Colossians, he teaches us why we need to be people who are hospitable:  “It is Christ in you.”  Christ lives in us and in our neighbor.  When we welcome our neighbor we are welcoming Christ.

In the Gospel we see that happening.  Jesus visits the home of his friends.  Martha welcomes Him at the door.  And Mary sits at His feet listening to His every word.

Martha gets upset.  She cleaned the house, she set the table, she arranged the flowers for the centerpiece, and now she is doing final preparations for an excellent meal.

So Martha walks into the living room and sees her sister, Mary, seated at the feet of Jesus.  You can picture Martha saying this, with her hands on her hips and looking down her nose:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me!”

Jesus answers her, “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.”

Now what is this all about?  What is Jesus teaching us about hospitality?

Well, Martha represents the hospitality of service.  Mary represents the hospitality of listening.  And both are important.  But the truth of the matter is that many of us are better at the Martha-part of service than we are at the Mary-part of listening.

May I offer you three little ideas for being a better listener?

The first one is:  be fully attentive to the person who is talking with you.

There was a public figure that, as he shook hands with the person in front of him, would be looking over that person’s shoulder to see who was next in line.

Now how would that make you feel?  Perhaps we even do that without realizing it.  Rather than giving our full attention to the person in front of us, we can be mentally somewhere else.

The second idea is:  show some body language to make it evident that we are paying attention – maybe with a smile, a nod or by locking eyes.

A lot of people find this hard to do.  But this is important because it says to them, “Yes, I’m listening.  I’m with you.”

Two skills for good listening are:  to give the other person our full attention, and to show with our body language that we are connecting with them.

And the third one is:  know the difference between FYI and NYB. Know the difference between “For Your Information” and “None of Your Business.”

Sometimes conversations start very well, but then there is that probing question that makes the other person feel uncomfortable.

For instance, somebody visits you and says, “My, your home is beautiful!”  Then they ask, “And how much did you pay for it?”  And the good feeling slips away!
Or someone says, “That outfit really looks smart on you!”  Then they ask, “And what size are we wearing these days?”  There it goes….

To be fully attentive to the person who is talking with us, to show this with our body language, and to be careful to know the difference between “For Your Information” and “None of Your Business” by avoiding probing questions – are all paths to good listening.

We look at Martha and Mary, and we see the hospitality of service in Martha, which is important, and the hospitality of listening in Mary, which is also important – and probably even more challenging.

This hospitality of listening is also important for our relationship with Our Lord in our prayer:  to give Him our full attention as Mary did, seated at His feet and listening to His every word.

And so perhaps that poem that the Irish have given us is not so “over the top” when we say it to Jesus:  “Jesus, come in the evening, come in the morning.  Jesus, come when expected, come without warning.  Thousands of welcomes you’ll find here before you.  And the oftener you come, the more we’ll adore you.”