16th Sunday of OT Cycle C

Choosing a Better Part

Joke: Three men died and went to heaven. Upon their arrival, Saint Peter asked the first man if he had been faithful to his wife. The man admitted that he had two affairs during his marriage. Saint Peter told him that he could receive only a compact car to drive in heaven. Second man, with the same question, the man admitted that he had only one affair in his entire marriage life on earth. Saint Peter was a little more impressed and gave him a mid-size car to drive in heaven. The third man came, and Saint Peter asked the same question. The man admitted that he had no affair from the day of his marriage to his wife until he died. Saint Peter was more impressed and gave him a luxury car to drive in heaven. A week later, three men were driving around, and they stopped at the traffic light. The men in the compact car and the mid-size cars saw the man in the luxury car was crying and asked, “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” The man in the luxury car responded, “I just passed my wife, and she was on the skateboard.”

Today, the Church in America begins the National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, a pastoral education campaign in support of the Church teaching on marriage, matrimonial love, and responsible parenthood as well as the natural way of planning our families in the words of Rev. Dr. Paul CB Schenck, MA, MSPsych, EdD, Diocese of Harrisburg. In all today’s readings, they were long selected before this designation of this week to reflect on the meaning of our observance. There are many things that families have to face in life. Just as Martha and Mary that Mary chose a better part to listen to the Lord Jesus, we are invited to choose a better part like Mary. The question is: How would we choose a better part to listen to the Lord in the midst of business, challenges, and difficulties of life?

In today’s first reading, taken from the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, it retells a story of Sarah and Abraham, our mother and father in faith. Living in marriage life, both Abraham and Sarah faced many challenges and difficulties of life such as moving from land to land towards the Promised Land that the Lord promised them. Waiting and waiting for their first child that the Lord promised them, but they still didn’t see their first born. Out of anxiety and distress, Sarah offered Abraham to have a relation with her maid to have a child just as God promised him. Her maid did give him a child, but the Lord was not happy because it was in human’s plan not God’s plan. With the existence of Ishmael, the child of a relation in human’s plan that was not only approved by God, but both Sarah and Abraham couldn’t find peace and happiness in their lives. Sarah and Abraham, perhaps, went through arguing with heated discussing, especially after Sarah’s maid gave a child from a relation with Abraham. Jealousy and envy arose in Sarah, angry and distress that might cause many challenges in their marriage life. Until today’s first reading, at a visit of the three men, Abraham was told that at this time next year, his wife, Sarah, will conceive and give birth to a son. Sarah was laughing at that saying since they were both not young any more. By the way, this laugh was prefigured the name of their first born Isaac since Abraham also laughed at the word of the Lord in a previous chapter of today’s first reading that Sarah will give him a son at her age of ninety. Just as Abraham, Sarah also laughed at the word of the Lord said to Abraham. But when she was asked by the Lord why she was laughing, she denied, or rather, she lied. Struggling to have a child and facing many other difficulties of life and at the same believing and trusting in the Lord’s promise, Sarah and Abraham surely had to battle to overcome difficulties and challenges of life in marriage life. Having a child in God’s plan is truly a gift from God. Therefore, Isaac is truly a gift from God, not Ishmael.

In today’s Gospel, both Martha and Mary, and perhaps Lazarus as well, are living in the same house. In the Middle East culture of the time, perhaps, their parents might have already died. Both Martha and Mary are adults and might have their spouses and children all living together in the same house. Apparently, Martha is in charge of the household and busy with house works so much so to the point that she is exhausted and lashes out at her sister and at Jesus demanding physical support. Jesus calms her and reminds her, and perhaps to each and every one of us, that spiritual priority, spending time with the Lord is the better part in our lives. Of course, this does not mean that family responsibilities are not important or oppose to the faithful devotion.

In the sacramental marriage life, couples are empowered to co-operate with God or to co-create a new human person with God. The decision to have a child, to begin a family, is at once a source of joy and of stress just as like Sarah and Abraham when they are distressed in waiting to conceive their first born and the joy they had when they actually have their first born son Isaac. However, through hardships, challenges and difficulties such as emotional maturity, employment objectives, economic stability, housing, personal health, and many other factors are brought to bear on spouses’ deliberations. Many hardships, challenges and difficulties that lead many couples to believe that contraception is the only route to responsible parenting. However, the Church points to another option, one that is at the same time optimistic and realistic: The principles of Natural Family Planning or NFP. NFP respects and affirms the factors couples consider to be essential to responsible family planning while respecting the woman’s natural power to conceive and bear their child. NFP respects and protects the nature of the person. Above all, NFP answers to the need to attend to the protection and preservation of the human person as the image and likeness of God and of the human body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. In the lives of couples who share the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, you are invited to spend time listening to the Lord in your hardships, difficulties and challenges or any situation of marriage life so to seek wisdom, courage and strength to live out your Christian life. Young couples, have you faced hardships, difficulties and challenges in your marriage life? NFP can help, but can you help yourselves to learn from NFP?


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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