Sorry: I got way behind in my posting, but I want to say a little about the past two Sundays’ readings before I do what I hope will be a normal post about next Sunday’s.
July 17 — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The central theme of the readings seems to be hospitality. The first reading — Genesis 18:1-10a — tells of Abraham extending hospitality to three men (angels or apparitions of God) who approach his tent. He treats them lavishly, and at the end of the passage, one of them promises him that his wife Sarah, will have a son by the same time next year. Hospitality was considered an obligation in that culture. In Christian thought, given the developments in the continuation of the story, the three visitors are seen as an adumbration of the Trinity: God, investigating Sodom and Gomorrah, appears not as one man, but as three. In the gospel — Luke 10:38-42 — Martha busies herself providing lavish hospitality for Jesus. He tells her, in effect, that she’s overdoing it, and that listening to his teaching is better than excessive work.
I see three aspects to the teaching on hospitality. First, we need to offer hospitality to those who need it: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 24:35 Second, Jesus wants us to receive him, to welcome him, by hearing his teaching and being his disciples. Third, Jesus gives us his hospitality, feeding us his body and blood to give us eternal life in his home.
The second reading — Colossians 1:24-28 — is a dazzling sequence of thoughts about Paul’s work and God’s plan for our salvation. His sufferings (and by implication ours as well) can somehow complete Christ’s for the sake of the Church. God is extending salvation to the Gentiles.
July 24 — 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Today, the theme of the first reading and the gospel is prayer. The gospel — Luke 11:1-13 — presents Jesus’ teaching on prayer. First he gives the Our Father as a model of prayer. Then he presents a parable about persistence in prayer. God wants us to persevere in our prayers. Jesus assures us that our prayers will be answered by God giving us good things. He does not give us the equivalent of a snake when we ask for a fish nor a scorpion instead of the egg we ask for. Specifically, he will give us the Holy Spirit. I’d also note, although it’s only implied in Jesus’ words, that the Father also doesn’t give us bad (for us) things even if we wan them. He’ll give us a fish if we ask for a snake, and an egg when we unwisely want a scorpion. He knows better than we do what it is we really need.
In the first reading — Genesis 18:20-32 — the story of Abraham and his visitors resumes. God reveals his intentions toward Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s intercession on their behalf is an example of the importance of prayer. God’s “threats” are better understood as warnings of what will happen if people do not heed what God says. Although the men of the two cities do not reform, Abraham (like Paul last week filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings) through his persistent prayer gains a significant reprieve for them.
The second reading — Colossians 2:12-14 — tells us that baptism makes us sharers in Jesus’ burial and resurrection. It applies Jesus’ saving action to us, so that our sins are cancelled. We now live with his life.