Jesus in our siblings

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Siblings and Friends of the Lord, 29 July 2021
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
What a tremendous grace from you,
dearest God our Father through
Pope Francis that we now celebrate
the Memorial not only of St. Martha 
but also of her brother St. Lazarus and 
sister St. Mary who were all dear friends 
of Jesus Christ he frequently visited in 
their home at Bethany.  
Finally, a beautiful imagery not only
of friendship in the Lord but most of all,
the oft-neglected and taken for granted
relationships of brothers and sisters.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, O dear God,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space for your Son 
Jesus Christ who is the surest bond among us
despite our many differences; like the children of 
Israel in the wilderness, may all siblings be
animated and moved by your presence, God our Father:
"Whenever the cloud rose from the dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward." (Exodus 40:36-37)
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Hills, Baguio City, 2018.
Yes, dearest Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the resurrection and life;
whoever believes in you not only lives
but most of all becomes your very presence
especially among those going through
various forms of darkness in this life;
give me the grace to bring your light
and your life, your joys and your hopes
to those heavily burdened
 so they may believe like St. Martha
that "if you, Lord, had been here,
my brother would have not died."
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
 and St. Mary who may not have
  understood fully your words and teachings,
keep me open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make my heart like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign in me;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let me share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

True hospitality leads to salvation

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Wk. XVI-C, 21 July 2019
Genesis 18:1-10 >< }}}*> Colossians 1:24-28 >< }}}*> Luke 10:38-42
A restaurant in the desert of Meribah on the way to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Photo by author, 01 May 2019.

Jesus our Good Samaritan continues his “resolutely determined journey” to Jerusalem. On his way, “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” (Lk.10:38-39).

It is another story only St. Luke has like the parable of the Good Samaritan last Sunday. And like that parable, we have memorized this story so well that we think there is nothing new we can find regarding the attitudes of Martha and Mary in receiving Jesus. Worst of all is when we look at its simplistic interpretation that Jesus favored Mary’s contemplative spirit than Martha’s active characteristic.

Again, Jesus invites us today to suspend our beliefs about the story of Martha and Mary by going deep inside us to discover its true meaning as it tells us something about that inner question we shared last Sunday with the scholar who asked the Lord, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk.10:25).

Kettle-lamp inside a restaurant in Meribah, Jordan.

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 so many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:40-42

Too often, the simplistic preaching we hear about this story is very unconvincing when some would argue the primacy of the “contemplative spirit” displayed by Mary over Martha’s zeal in hosting or “catering” for Jesus that is both necessary and valuable. Recall the many instances when Jesus also warmly accepted invitations by Pharisees and other sinners like Zacchaeus who also waited on him during meal. Two Sundays ago we heard how Jesus instructed the 72 disciples he had sent to “eat and drink whatever is offered to you” (Lk.10:7) when they are received as guests.

Very clearly, the lesson here is about hospitality that is more than staying at the feet of the Lord like Mary or getting busy at the kitchen like Martha. True hospitality in the Lord is welcoming him right in our hearts whether we are praying or doing something. Hospitality is from the Latin word “hospes” that means to welcome or to receive. In everything we do, whether in our actions and contemplation, it is Jesus who is our only focus and attention. We work in Jesus, through Jesus and with Jesus.

Jesus reproached Martha not for preparing their meal but for being “too anxious and upset” with so many things except him who had come to visit her and Mary. The gospels teem with so many instances where Jesus warned us his followers not to worry so much of the things of the world like food and clothing, money and other forms of security including how we shall defend ourselves against enemies when persecuted. Jesus has us all covered, so to speak.

The problem among so many of us priests and nuns these days is when we have become politicized than evangelized that we are so anxious and upset of so many things that we feel we are the savior of the world. The messianic complex plagues us in the Church where we have been so focused with our call, forgetting our Caller, Jesus Christ. Worst of all, we have stopped praying to Jesus especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

Last Sunday Jesus asked us to look more inside of us so that the more we see ourselves, the more we see him in others. Today, Jesus tells us that the more we become active, the more we must be contemplative looking to him within us. And when we are truly contemplative, we become more active in him with others! At its core is always that deep relationship, personal relationship with the Lord who always comes to visit us.

15th century icon of Abraham’s visitors at Mamre by Russian artist Andrei Rublev.

In the first reading we have heard Abraham welcoming his visitors believed to be the Blessed Trinity at his tent in Mamre. What a lovely story and a scene to behold where Abraham was like Martha busy preparing for the Lord his visitor. But unlike Martha, Abraham was never reproached because the Lord remained his focus in his waiting and hosting! It was during that visit at Mamre when God promised Abraham before leaving that his wife Sarai would bear a son the following year, fulfilling the earlier promise made to him that he would he would be the father of a great nation. If you have time to read further, Abraham’s wife came to be called Sarah from Sarai after the Lord heard her laughed upon hearing him spoke of their having a son the following year. It was Sarah who was reproached by God like Martha for not believing she would bear Abraham a son because she must be anxious and upset with so many other things like her age and being barren. There was no true hospitality in her too like Martha.

Back with Abraham at Mamre, the Lord revealed that true hospitality always leads to salvation, the fulfillment of the Divine promises. There in his tent where Abraham welcomed God wholeheartedly in himself, he received the good news of the birth of Isaac, the fulfillment of being the father of a great nation.

In Nazareth the same thing happened when Mary wholeheartedly welcomed the Angel Gabriel’s good news of the birth of Jesus, the Christ now in us according to St. Paul who is our “hope for glory” (Col.1:27).

In this simple story of Martha and Mary, St. Luke tells us something more than true hospitality, that whenever we receive somebody as a guest, when we reach out to help those in need like the Good Samaritan last Sunday, it is always Jesus whom we meet. Don’t be caught up with so many other things except Jesus because whenever he comes, he always has good news for us! A blessed week to everyone. Amen.

Welcome to our Parish of St. John Evangelist, Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Saturday Vigil mass at 5:30 PM and Sunday Masses at 7AM and 5:30PM. Don’t miss Jesus with his blessings and good news for you this Sunday!