Sunday Word

Gathered at the Lord’s feet

Father David Scotchie
Sunday, July 21
Gn 18:1-10a; Ps 15:2-5; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42

Although we don’t know exactly when Martha confronted Jesus, I like to imagine that the scene took place after dinner.

The time after dinner is that moment during a fine meal at an Italian restaurant — you have greeted your friends, sampled the appetizers, asked how the family is doing, changed wines, ordered the entrée, marveled at each plate brought out, talked and tasted, chosen light desserts from a tray accompanied by an aperitif and coffee — when no one would think to run out the door. Everyone stays. You make an evening of it. As the last plates are cleared away, you tell stories loosened by good food and drink. You laugh, share memories, and grow in friendship over the table.

In my imagination, the sisters Martha and Mary had been busy serving and cleaning up after such a meal. Being a patriarchal society, the men ate first and separately from the women. At that moment where the men would retire for men-talk with Jesus the honored guest, Mary slipped in. Mary sat at his feet to listen to his words. She was more than bold. She was out of line, as Martha pointed out. Only men can be disciples. But Jesus let her stay. “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 10:42). He wanted her to be with him.

In the liturgy, we have such a moment. After communion, the rubrics call for a moment of quiet: “All pray in silence with the Priest for a while, unless silence has just been observed.” The moment is so short that it can get lost in the purification of the ciboria and chalices and the communion prayer and announcements. It is only a moment, but it is not to be missed.

During the moment of quiet, you can say with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Or simply, “Thank you.” Let the Lord gather you at his feet.

The moment during Mass is too brief. Thank goodness for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Time before the Blessed Sacrament continues that special post-dinner moment with the Lord.

Prayer is not easy for us. The unspoken rule of our day is “be productive” like Martha. Whether we are at work or at play, we feel bored when we are not busy. Walking the dog, we talk on the cell phone. Over dinner, we swipe to catch up on the wash-rinse-repeat news cycle. Who has time to sit down and pray daily for twenty minutes or more?

When we do spend time with the Lord, it can be surprisingly productive. One hot day while sitting at the entrance of his tent, Abraham looked up to see three men. Running to greet the desert travelers, he bowed low and begged them to rest for a while under the shade of the nearby oak of Mamre. He had water brought to refresh their sore feet. He hurried into the tent and urged his wife Sarah to make baskets of bread for them. Meanwhile, he ran to his herd, picked out a choice calf, and had a servant prepare it. He himself brought curds and milk to the three visitors and waited on them while they ate the spur-of-the-moment feast. After they had eaten and before continuing on their way, the three visitors returned the hospitality of Abraham with a gift of their own. One of them made a promise to the old and childless Abraham and Sarah. “Next year, Sarah will have a son.” Abraham and Sarah had unwittingly hosted three angels. In return, the childless couple received a son. Talk about productive! (Gen 18:1-10).

This Sunday, through Martha and Mary’s dinner party, Jesus instructs us that we must pray. Like Mary at Jesus’ feet, like Abraham and Sarah hosting the three visitors, quality time with the Lord is the priority over all our activity. Next Sunday, Jesus instructs us how to pray. Warning: what he instructs us to say to God is not what you might expect.

To take to prayer: Spend an hour this week with the Blessed Sacrament. Picture the story of Martha and Mary as if it were a movie. Where do you see yourself in the story? What happens?

Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. He is the co-author of “Rites of Passage: Preaching Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals” (Liturgical Press), which recently won a Catholic Press Book award and can be reached at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

Who is my neighbor?

Father David Scotchie
Sunday, July 14
Dt 30:10-14; Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

As we heard last Sunday, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Against all sense, it worked. His defenseless followers cast out demons, cured the sick, and proclaimed the kingdom of God. They became a people that relied completely on one another. For American Catholics today, his instruction clashes with our self-sufficient comfortable lifestyle.

Jesus’ instruction continues this Sunday when a scholar of the law asked, “Who is my neighbor?” The scholar was politely asking, “Who is not my neighbor? Who can I ignore? Who can I label and hate?”

Jesus did not lower the bar. Instead, Jesus gave a twist to the double command, love God and love neighbor. “Your neighbor,” Jesus instructed the scholar, “is a Samaritan.”
The story of the Good Samaritan is not an exhortation to be do-gooders. You do not need to be Christian to stop on your way and help someone. What makes it Christian is who we must help and how much.

Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, “And so the first question that the priest [and] the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’” The priest and Levite might have wondered if the bandits were hiding in ambush. Surely the authorities could help him better than they could. Besides, getting involved would sidetrack their own plans.

King went on. “But then the good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” Instead of asking, “What will happen to me?” the Samaritan asked, “What will happen to him?”

King made the question his own. “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” The scripture scholar Amy-Jill Levine noted that King then went to Memphis, and it was there he was assassinated.

If we do not stop to help mothers and their unborn children, what will happen to them? If we do not stop to help the immigrants and refugees, what will happen to them? If we do not stop to help our polluted planet, what will happen to our children?

We ask these questions not as do-gooders. We ask these questions as followers of Christ who has hauled us out of the ditch. We ask and then act.

At the Last Judgment, Christ reveals, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Mt 25:40). Christ is present in the suffering of the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and stranger in the ditch. He is present in the one we fear and loathe.

At the same time, Christ is the Good Samaritan. He gave himself to save humanity from sin and death. He has pulled us out the ditch. He has saved us from death.

Our part is to heed the psalmist, “Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live” (Ps 69:33). As the robbers’ victim depended on the Samaritan taking care of him, our life depends on letting Christ heal us. By his wounds we are healed.

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful reflection, “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.” He gave as example the story of the Samaritan. Going beyond sympathy and compassion, the traveler freely gave his time, money and self for the suffering neighbor. John Paul II added that society itself, in its medical institutions, education systems and social work is at its best structured on the example of the Good Samaritan.

Next Sunday, Jesus travels to the home of Martha and Mary where he instructs us how to love God. He teaches us to pray urgently as if our empty stomach depended on it. This week, he instructs us to love whomever God puts in our path as he loves us.

To take to prayer: Who along your way is in need of mercy? What will happen to them if you do not stop?

Who is my neighbor?



As we heard last Sunday, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Against all sense, it worked. His defenseless followers cast out demons, cured the sick, and proclaimed the kingdom of God. They became a people that relied completely on one another. For American Catholics today, his instruction clashes with our self-sufficient comfortable lifestyle.

Jesus’ instruction continues this Sunday when a scholar of the law asked, “Who is my neighbor?” The scholar was politely asking, “Who is not my neighbor? Who can I ignore? Who can I label and hate?”

Jesus did not lower the bar. Instead, Jesus gave a twist to the double command, love God and love neighbor. “Your neighbor,” Jesus instructed the scholar, “is a Samaritan.”

The story of the Good Samaritan is not an exhortation to be do-gooders. You do not need to be Christian to stop on your way and help someone. What makes it Christian is who we must help and how much.

Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, “And so the first question that the priest [and] the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’” The priest and Levite might have wondered if the bandits were hiding in ambush. Surely the authorities could help him better than they could. Besides, getting involved would sidetrack their own plans.

King went on. “But then the good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” Instead of asking, “What will happen to me?” the Samaritan asked, “What will happen to him?”

King made the question his own. “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” The scripture scholar Amy-Jill Levine noted that King then went to Memphis, and it was there he was assassinated.

If we do not stop to help mothers and their unborn children, what will happen to them? If we do not stop to help the immigrants and refugees, what will happen to them? If we do not stop to help our polluted planet, what will happen to our children?

We ask these questions not as do-gooders. We ask these questions as followers of Christ who has hauled us out of the ditch. We ask and then act.

At the Last Judgment, Christ reveals, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Mt 25:40). Christ is present in the suffering of the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and stranger in the ditch. He is present in the one we fear and loathe.

At the same time, Christ is the Good Samaritan. He gave himself to save humanity from sin and death. He has pulled us out the ditch. He has saved us from death.

Our part is to heed the psalmist, “Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live” (Ps 69:33). As the robbers’ victim depended on the Samaritan taking care of him, our life depends on letting Christ heal us. By his wounds we are healed.

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful reflection, “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.” He gave as example the story of the Samaritan. Going beyond sympathy and compassion, the traveler freely gave his time, money and self for the suffering neighbor. John Paul II added that society itself, in its medical institutions, education systems and social work is at its best structured on the example of the Good Samaritan.

Next Sunday, Jesus travels to the home of Martha and Mary where he instructs us how to love God. He teaches us to pray urgently as if our empty stomach depended on it. This week, he instructs us to love whomever God puts in our path as he loves us.

To take to prayer: Who along your way is in need of mercy? What will happen to them if you do not stop?

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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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