God comes to Abraham in a visit, as we heard in the first reading. God who is accepted by man is able to do surprising things in his life: even make him fertile and give him offspring if, from a biological point of view, it is almost impossible. Sarah, as we read further into the book, laughed at this, thought it was impossible. This is good news for us. It may seem to you, to me too, that we are unable to change our lives, our position, in spite of our sins, our fears, our hatred, our lack of forgiveness. Let us invite God in. He can do it.
Another visit. This time Jesus is in hospitality of Martha and Mary. We do not know the locality where this took place. Perhaps St Luke wants to convince us to invite him into our home too. There we see two attitudes: the industrious Martha and the listening Mary.
Martha, standing at the head of the house, invites him in and makes sure he doesn’t lack anything.
She stays in the kitchen preparing a meal and works hard, complaining about her sister doing nothing. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to his words. Our life. A relationship with Jesus is a mixture of these attitudes. Sometimes we do something for him or because of Jesus (such as feeding a homeless person), and sometimes we just stand in prayer. Interestingly, Jesus does not propose to Martha to swap her work for sitting quietly at his feet. He proposes himself to her. It is Him that Mary has chosen and it is her ‘better part’ that she will never be deprived of. That is another lesson. If Jesus becomes the most important guest for us, we will accept him into our lives, we will be able to serve others without opposition, unnecessary words, explanations. We will be able to put ourselves somewhere further down the line.
The attitude of service flowing from Jesus’ invitation of hospitality to life is what we hear in St Paul’s letter to the parish of Colossians.
We are to pass on faith in Jesus, and the crucified Jesus, by the way we live and serve others. It is not a matter of proclaiming the Gospel in words alone, but affirming it by the way we live.
This was the case at the beginning of Christianity, when pagans, as Tertullian writes, were converted, seeing the love and service to others that reigned among Christians: “Look,” they said, “how they love each other.” God comes as a guest to man. Very surprisingly. For, after all, he surprised Abraham, who was relaxing in front of his tent in the shade of the oak of Mamre in the hot noon. He surprised a busy Martha, and a listening Maria. He comes as a guest to our hearts during Holy Communion when we receive him, but also to our ears when we hear his word during the readings. We would do well, “in the power of God’s Spirit”, to recognise God in those most in need, but also in those closest to us. These were for them in different ways – through donated time, a cup of water, food, a kind word or patience.