29Jul 29 July, 2020. Wednesday of Week 17

St Martha (Memorial, see below)

1st Reading: Exodus 34:29-35

Moses veils his face when speaking to the people

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 98:5-7, 9

R./: Holy is the Lord our God

Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before Zion, his footstool.
He the Lord is holy. (R./)

Among his priests were Aaron and Moses,
among those who invoked his name were Samuel.
They invoked the Lord and he answered. (R./)

To them he spoke in the pillar of cloud.
They did his will; they kept the law,
which he, the Lord, had given. (R./)

Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before his holy mountain
for the Lord our God is holy.

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-46

Making radical choices , ready to sell all for the sake of the buried treasure and for the priceless pearl

Jesus said to his disciples,”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”


The pearl of great price

At some turning points in our lives, and certainly at the hour of death, we are faced with the prospect of leaving all behind to embrace something radically new. While in the gospel Jesus asks his disciples for radical dedication to the Kingdom of God, the Exodus reading also illustrates how, in his loyal service of God, Moses was transformed. This mighty warrior had led his people out of Egypt towards the Promised Land. Now, after being in intimate conversation with God, Moses had such a foretaste of heaven that the skin of his face became radiant. The peace, strength and compassion of God shone from the eyes and face of this man of God.

The radiance on the face of Moses was too much for the Israelites. They backed away so that Moses had to shout to them from a distance and from then on began to wear a veil to hide his face. Like people who prefer to worship from the very back of the church, the Jews did not want God to be too close to them. They were happy to let Moses be their spokesman and intercessor. Yet, when important decisions had to be made, the people were anxious for God’s guidance. We too are grateful for the saints who have shown us the way to live a life pleasing to God. They help us to know right from wrong and to live generously, until in the end we gain the pearl of great price, eternal life with God.

There may be times in life when our struggle is not against what is evil or immoral, but will be coping with misfortune, or even feeling abandoned even by God. In those times we need faith to believe that, like the merchant in search of that priceless pearl, it really is there to be found.

What to treasure

In both of today’s pithy parables, people find something of high value, one a box of treasure and the other a priceless pearl. How they make these discoveries is quite different. One finds treasure by accident, while not looking for anything in particular. He was working for wages, digging in someone else’s field, and the last thing he expected to find was a trunk of buried treasure. In the other case, the merchant was actively searching for fine pearls and, eventually, as a result of persistent searching, found one pearl of great value which stood out from all the rest.

Both are images of the kingdom of God. Both suggest that our relationship with God is greater than any earthly treasure. The first parable suggests that this treasure comes to us as a grace. We can be surprised by God’s gracious initiative, hidden beneath the surface of our lives. Grace can break through to us when we are least expecting it. The second parable highlights the importance of searching in coming to know God. The person who seeks will find If we knock we will have the door opened. We can be, and will be, surprised by grace, but also we are called to seek him with all our heart and soul.

Saint Martha of Bethany

1st Reading: 1 John 4:7-16)

Anyone who really loves is born of God and knows God

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34)

Response: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the Lord;
the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R./)

Glorify the Lord with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears. (R./)

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress he saved him. (R./)

The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the Lord is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him. (R./)

Gospel: Luke (10:38-42)

Jesus is welcomed by Martha and Mary

As they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”


Gospel: John (11:19-27)

Martha believes in the life-giving power of Jesus

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”


Martha’s rugged faith

Martha is mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and John. She lived in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem, with her siblings Lazarus and Mary. She welcomed Jesus and the disciples into her home, and was witness to the raising of her brother, Lazarus. All three of them were close friends of Jesus, who often visited their home and went there just a few days before the Passion. Many tend to focus on Jesus’ apparent criticism – that her sister Mary had chosen the better part by sitting at his feet and listening to him rather than bustling about attending to the details of hospitality (Luke 10: 38-42). Jesus does not downplay housework; rather, he invites Martha to keep her focus on the life of the spirit even while working and not to let anxiety distract her. He does not preclude Martha’s listening to him from the kitchen – where she was preparing a meal for them all. The woman in the kitchen will often know exactly what is going on in the rest of her house.

Today we remember Martha’s deep, personal faith in Jesus. It is she who believed in “resurrection from the dead” for those who die in faith. When Jesus calls himself the resurrection and the life, promising that they who believe in him will never die, it was at Martha’s prompting, as she mourned the death of her brother Lazarus. Responing to her prayer, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and many came to believe in him after this sign of his life-giving power.

There is a fine appraisal of Martha and Mary in a sermon by Saint Augustine featured in today’s Liturgy of the Hours: “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 travelers on a journey without 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 you, Martha, 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, someone ill whom you could visit or quarreling 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, but we ourselves shall be fed. So what Mary chose in this life will be realized 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.'”

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