by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
Let’s pause from our everyday concerns and take a moment to marvel at God’s extravagant love. Two manifestations of God’s extravagant love stand out in our readings today. The first is the gift given to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham, our father in faith, and his wife Sarah were granted a promise from God that seemed impossible to fulfill. God vowed that their descendants would be as numerous as stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore. The problem was twofold: Abraham and Sarah were both barren and beyond child-bearing years. How could God fulfill his promise?
In the book of Genesis, God announces to Abraham at the end of a meal, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” God showers his love upon this faith-filled couple and, through a miracle, grants their lifelong desire for a child and fulfills the promise that is central to the covenant recently established with humanity through Abraham. Imagine their surprise and joy at conceiving a son in their old age.
The second manifestation is revealed by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians. On the one hand, God revealed extravagant love when he sent his Son, Jesus, down to this earth to dwell among us. In this supreme act, God stooped down from heaven and took on the fullness of our human condition. He walked in our shoes, experienced the full spectrum of our struggles and laughed at the dinner table. Jesus’ choice to dwell among us is a marvelous deed that words can’t adequately describe.
However, Paul goes on to highlight that Jesus was not satisfied with simply dwelling among us. Rather, his love for us is so strong that Jesus chooses to come and dwell in us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our precious Lord desires a profound intimacy with each member of the flock. Not content with dwelling among us, Jesus comes and makes a home within our hearts. Paul states, “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.” This wonderful grace is made possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and is nourished and renewed as often as we desire when we come to the Eucharist: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56).
What is an appropriate response to God’s extravagant love? Make a valiant effort to love him in return. Strive to sacrificially love God with all your heart, mind and soul.
We see two examples of generous responses in our Scriptures today. The first comes again from Abraham. The great patriarch senses that the three guests who show up at his home are from God. (Some scholars say that it was the Holy Trinity who came to his home.) Abraham runs to greet them at the entrance of the tent. This simple act was extravagant because older men never ran in that culture. Next, Abraham begs the mysterious guests to stay, rest and share a meal. He proceeds to pick out a tender, choice steer from the herd and prepare it for them. He asks Sarah to bake some of her best rolls. Then, Abraham waits on them while they eat under the tree. Abraham extends warm and generous hospitality to his mysterious visitors.
St. Paul gives us another example of offering a fitting response to God’s extravagant love. His care for his flock is so sincere and generous that he genuinely rejoices in the suffering that he endures for their sake. Paul notes in one of his letters a taste of what he has endured in his efforts to bring the love and truth of Christ to his flock. “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received 40 lashings minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from robbers … dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers from false brothers … And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11: 24-29). In spite of all this, Paul can say to the church in Colossae, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1: 24). This is extravagant love.
Lord Jesus, open up our minds and hearts to your immeasurable, extravagant love. Fill us with all the grace we need to respond in fitting ways to you and to all that you have done for us.