When we were baptized into Christ and clothed ourselves in him, we were transformed into the likeness of the Son of God. Having destined us to be his adopted sons, God gave us a likeness to Christ in his glory, and living as we do in communion with Christ, God’s anointed, we ourselves are rightly called “the anointed ones.” When he said: Do not touch my anointed ones, God was speaking of us.
We became “the anointed ones” when we received the sign of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, everything took place in us by means of images, because we ourselves are images of Christ. Christ bathed in the river Jordan, imparting to its waters the fragrance of his divinity, and when he came up from them the Holy Spirit descended upon him, like resting upon like. So we also, after coming up from the sacred waters of baptism, were anointed with chrism, which signifies the Holy Spirit, by whom Christ was anointed and of whom blessed Isaiah prophesied in the name of the Lord: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor.
Christ’s anointing was not by human hands, nor was it with ordinary oil. On the contrary, having destined him to be the Saviour of the whole world, the Father himself anointed him with the Holy Spirit. The words of Peter bear witness to this: Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit. And David the prophet proclaimed: Your throne, O God, shall endure for ever; your royal sceptre is a sceptre of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above all your fellows.
The oil of gladness with which Christ was anointed was a spiritual oil; it was in fact the Holy Spirit himself, who is called the oil of gladness because he is the source of spiritual joy. But we too have been anointed with oil, and by this anointing we have entered into fellowship with Christ and have received a share in his life. Beware of thinking that this holy oil is simply ordinary oil and nothing else. After the invocation of the Spirit it is no longer ordinary oil but the gift of Christ, and by the presence of his divinity it becomes the instrument through which we receive the Holy Spirit. While symbolically, on our foreheads and senses, our bodies are anointed with this oil that we see, our souls are sanctified by the holy and life-giving Spirit.
“Lord, do You not care that my sister left me to serve alone!” —Luke 10:40, RSV-CE
Martha was serving alone. Many Christians also feel quite alone in their service to the Lord and His people. Martha complained to Jesus that He should get Mary to help her (Lk 10:40). We also pray to Jesus that He will get someone to help us. Many times, Jesus doesn’t send anyone to help. This gives us the impression that Jesus doesn’t care. In fact, Jesus may not be concerned at that particular time about others helping us to continue our work. Rather, His care is that we temporarily stop our work to listen to Him (Lk 10:39). When we are alone in service, we should give up our expectation of others helping us. Rather, we should meet Jesus’ expectation that we stop and listen to Him. When we’re all alone, we shouldn’t just do something; we should sit there.
Jesus cares about our serving alone. He cares so much that He wants to be with us and speak to us. After being “alone” with Jesus, we have the wisdom and strength to serve alone, or we will see the Lord raise up others to help us. First and foremost, Jesus cares about our listening to Him. Do you care to listen to Him and to spend time with Him alone?
Prayer: Father, may I not run from loneliness but run to You.
Promise: “When I found Your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart.” —Jer 15:16
Praise: St. “Martha said to Jesus, ‘…I am sure that God will give You whatever You ask of Him’ ” (Jn 11:21-22).
Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labour among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travellers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.
Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travellers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Saviour, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit. For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, out of condescension and not out of need. For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would indeed be hungry and thirsty.
Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting those who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his co-heirs. No one of you should say: “Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!” Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.
But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labours you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarrelling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?
No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realised there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.
Father Al Grosskopf, SJgave this homily on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I hope you find as much appreciation in it as I have. Enjoy …..
Sometimes when I counsel people, I ask them to describe their God and their relationship to God. How do you describe your relationship to God? It’s really quite difficult, isn’t it? We flounder trying to find the right words. How can one tell of such an intimate and spiritual experience? Some of us just avoid talking about it at all. And others of us resort to metaphors and comparisons with ordinary things in the hope that our listener can make the connections. We say that our relationship to God is like being born again, or like coming home from a long journey, or like being struck by lightening, or like falling in love, or like an intimate walk with a loved one…
“The reign of God is like a mustard seed which someone took and sowed in his field.” —Matthew 13:31
The Lord is looking for someone to sow a mustard seed. Physically, this is light work, for thousands of mustard seeds weigh almost nothing. However, sowing a mustard seed is hard work spiritually. When someone sows a mustard seed, he appears to be doing nothing. Although he knows he is doing something, he himself feels as if he is doing something which amounts to nothing. He is strongly tempted to despise “small beginnings” (Zec 4:10).
Like Jesus, the Suffering Servant and the Messiah, the sower of a mustard seed feels he has “toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent” his strength (Is 49:4). The life of a mustard seed sower is hidden in Christ (Col 3:3) and appears useless and hopeless. Nevertheless, the Lord promises a mustard seed sower: “I will make you a light to the nations, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Is 49:6).
Some of you reading this feel discouraged that we are still light-years away from the amazing justice and freedom which is part of the kingdom of God. However, put the drop of your life into the ocean of God’s love. God will multiply it to transform the world.
Prayer: Father, I will give You my best even when no one but You knows what I’m doing.
Promise: “I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to Me, says the Lord; to be My people, My renown, My praise, My beauty.” —Jer 13:11
Praise: When his wife died John’s friends and family expected him to drink again, but his faith in God kept him sober.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ‘Mercy’ is a beautiful word: more beautiful still is the thing itself. All men wish to receive it, but the worst thing is that not all of them behave in a way that deserves it. Although everyone wishes to be shown mercy only a few wish to show it.
O man, how can you have the effrontery to ask for what you refuse to give to others? You must show mercy in this world if you want to receive mercy in heaven. So, my dearest brethren, since we all desire mercy, let us make ourselves mercy’s slaves in this world so that she can give us our freedom in the world to come. For there is mercy in heaven and we come to it through earthly mercies. As Scripture says: Lord, your mercy is in heaven.
So there is earthly and heavenly mercy: that is, human and divine. What is human mercy? Exactly this: to have care for the sufferings of the poor. What is divine mercy? Without doubt, to grant forgiveness of sins. Whatever human mercy gives away on the journey, divine mercy pays back when we arrive at last in our native land. For it is God who feels cold and hunger, in the person of the poor. As he himself has said: As much as you have done for the least of these, you have done it for me. What God deigns to give on heaven, he yearns to receive on earth.
What sort of people are we if we want to receive, when God offers, but when God asks, we refuse to give? For when a poor man hungers, it is Christ who suffers want, as he himself has said: I was hungry and you gave me no food. Do not despise the misery of the poor if you want a sure hope of forgiveness for your sins. Christ is hungry now, brethren, in all the poor. He consents to suffer hunger and thirst – and whatever he receives on earth he will give back in heaven.
I ask you, brethren: when you come to church, what do you want? what are you looking for? Is it anything other than mercy? Then give earthly mercy and you will receive the heavenly kind. The poor man asks of you, and you ask of God: the poor man for food, you for eternal life. Give to the beggar what you want to deserve from Christ. Hear Christ saying Give and it will be given to you. I do not know how you can have the effrontery to want to receive what you do not want to give. And so, when you come to church, give, whatever you can afford as alms for the poor.