Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray.
Through Us, the Liturgy Prepares the World to Receive Christ Jesus (16th Sunday OT) Year C
Today’s first reading for the sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C Cycle, comes from Genesis 18:1-10. This chapter is the beginning of the narrative about God’s displeasure and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that is covered in, both, chapters eighteen and nineteen. The Lord and two other men were intentionally headed to the city of Sodom when Abraham looked up and saw them and prevailed upon them, most convincingly, to stay for a while and to refresh themselves. The text then spends several sentences in effort to detail how arduously Abraham and Sarah labored to prepare a high quality meal for them, saying, “Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.” He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. Then Abraham got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men; and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.”
In the second reading, Saint Paul is writing to the Church at Colossae. The idea that Paul is beating back in this whole letter is Gnosticism, which was a teaching spreading around Rome and was positing that Christ Jesus was just a superior man, an eon – a being that was an intermediate between God the Spirit and matter. In today’s reading; chapter one – verses twenty-four through twenty-eight – the Apostle first speaks of how his suffering has prepared him to be a minister of the mystery (i.e., the Logos, the Good News) of Christ Jesus that he says, “has now been manifested to His holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” Paul then writes about how the work of proclaiming Christ, admonishing everyone, and teaching everyone with wisdom, prepares everyone so that “we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”
In the Gospel of Luke this Sunday we find the ever-popular story about Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. Much has been written about this story over the centuries of the Church, and in these later days many seem to always want to make it about a distinction or a competition between the active life versus the contemplative life. Yet, in union with the other readings for today, this is also a story about being prepared or preparing ourselves for the Lord. Here, Martha, “burdened with much serving”, resembles Abraham from the first reading who busied himself and his household with preparations for the Lord’s meal; while Mary, sitting “beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak”, reminds us of the call of the Apostle in the second reading to prepare ourselves being attentive to the Apostolic proclamations, admonishments, and teachings.
Many of you will hear a homily this Sunday about being welcoming to strangers and visitors and how these readings somehow relate to illegal immigration. Yet, the liturgy does not care about political agendas and human posturing. On the contrary, the liturgy intends to prepare us to receive the principal matter of the Mass, which is Christ Jesus being present with His People. Therefore, together, these readings point to how the liturgy guides us along that path of preparing ourselves for Christ’s manifestation in, with, and through us.
The liturgy of the memorial sacrifice can be rightly divided into three sections. From the entrance procession and all the way through the Penitential Rite, the Collect, the Liturgy of the Word, the Creed, the Universal Prayer, the Prayer over the Offers, the Sursum Corda, the Sanctus, and the Eucharistic prayers, all consist of the first section of the Mass, which is the Preparation Rite; that is, being prepared to receive in the indwelling of Christ Jesus, the Holy Eucharist. The second section is the Communion Rite. Now that we have been prepared to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist, we receive the Holy Eucharist. The third section is being prepared and being sent to go be a Eucharistic People in the world. In summation, the Mass consists of being prepared to receive the Eucharist, Receiving the Eucharist, and the being charged to go be a type of Eucharist in the world.
Our duty as Catholics is to prepare the world to receive Christ, as we were prepared to receive Christ. For, the world needs to confess the Confiteor, the world needs to sing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the world needs to hear the word of God, the world needs a homily, the world needs to confess the Creed, the world needs to confess the Agnus Dei, and the world needs to receive Christ Jesus into their minds, bodies, and souls. Hear ye faithful Catholics; you are just the People who have been prepared and who know how prepare the world to receive the love and truth of Christ our Lord in this way.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.