16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – July 21, 2013 – preached at the 5pm Vigil and 5pm Life Teen Masses at the Cathedral of Christ the King

  • Genesis 18:1-10a
  • Colossians 1:24-28
  • Luke 10:38-42

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need for only one thing.”MarthaJesus

Was Jesus really upset that Martha was attending to the needs of those gathered in her home?    Martha was simply doing the expected, showing hospitality to her guests.  It wasn’t Martha’s show of hospitality that Jesus was questioning.

To confirm this, we don’t have to look any further than our first reading today from the Book of Genesis.  Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, spots three visitors approaching.  While he doesn’t yet realize the Lord has come to him, he senses there is something special about these men. How does he respond?

He says, “Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree. … let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh abraham_angelsyourselves, and afterward you may go on your way.”

Abraham, like Martha, offers simple hospitality to these guests and the men graciously accept that hospitality.  But there’s a difference between Martha and Abraham which is key to understanding Jesus reaction to Martha’s question.  Abraham is focused on his guests; seeking to meet their needs.  Where is Martha’s focus?  Jesus response makes it clear that her heart is in the wrong place.  She has allowed secondary anxieties and concerns to distract her from the most important thing, the most important person who is standing in front of her – JESUS!

Abraham never knew Jesus – but like Mary, he had the heart of a disciple.  He demonstrated that when the Lord approached him in the form of these three guests.  He saw their needs and responded to those needs.  And for 2000 years, the Church has called her people to do the same; to be of service to the communities in which she lives.  These passages from Scripture are meant to stir us into action and remind us of what it means to have the heart of a disciple; a heart that is not focused on self, but wholly on the good of the other.

Charity and justice; the two feet of Catholic social teaching.  This parish always responds generously when it comes to acts of charity; collections for missionaries charityjusticeand for natural disasters; providing food to the sick and those that cannot afford it through the St. Vincent DePaul society.  Our teens gave up a week of their summer break to take part in Heart Work Camp.  This year, we exceeded our goal for the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. In these and many other ways we respond with great zeal performing these acts of charity.

But today I want to focus on the other part of the Church’s social teaching, that of social or restorative justice.  While charity is a necessary component of the a disciples way of life, it’s not sufficient by itself.  Often there are laws, regulations, government or civic structures that have aspects that are at worst, unjust and at best, lack in providing even the most minimal of basic services to our citizens.  Right here in our own community some of our brothers and sisters battle every day just to survive, to have the very basic essentials of life that many of us take for granted.

Writing a check or making a cash donation won’t help these situations.  This form of social ministry seeks to identify problems and then advocate for systemic changes to eliminate those problems.  By ourselves, or even as an entire parish, we are limited in what demands for change we can make of our elected and appointed officials.

The good news is that we aren’t alone.  Christ the King is now a member of BUILD, joining with 21 other faith communities, including other Lexington parishes; all of whom are dedicated to making a difference.  BUILD stands for Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action.   It is an ecumenical restorative justice association of Christian faith communities.  Since its inception in 2003, BUILD has been constituent-led and employs the practices of direct-action community organizing. It’s now a powerful grassroots organization that is creating system-wide changes in Lexington.

In 2004, BUILD discovered that many of the working poor in Lexington could not hold jobs because Lextran was not operating during evening and overnight hours and they could not afford their own transportation.  BUILD worked with LexTran and obtained their commitment to start an “Employment Bus” which takes citizens to work during the hours there is no regular bus service.  The Employment bus service began in August 2006 and continues today.

In 2006, BUILD discovered that in the Fayette County Jail, there was a men’s drug treatment program in place but there was none for women.  As a result, BUILD requested and convinced the city to allocate $175,000 per year in the city’s budget to start a women’s drug treatment program.  The program is still in place and as a result, over 325 women have had the opportunity to break the chains of drug abuse so they can become productive members of our community.

In 2010, BUILD worked with the Health Department and other healthcare providers to give 14,000 more people access to primary health care each year–estimated to be about $8 million in additional primary health care each year.

Now, all of us here at Christ the King have the opportunity to put our values into action by participating in BUILD and be a part of making additional positive changes in our community.  But for this to happen we need you.  We need Catholics who take their faith seriously and are willing to invest their time, talent, and treasure to expand the BUILD network.  BUILD works because of numbers.  Numbers make all the difference in this type of restorative justice.  Politicians and other officials BUILD_Assemblyrespond when they are approached in great numbers.  That’s why it’s important that we respond in great numbers.

Today, I am asking you for a personal commitment; a personal commitment to pray about and consider making a personal investment as a participant in BUILD here at Christ the King.  There are two events coming up in the next few weeks, both of which will help you understand BUILD in more detail.

The first is a Diocesan “Rethinking Justice Workshop” scheduled for next Saturday from 9am to Noon down in the Parish Life Center.  The second event is a Parish Social Ministry retreat scheduled for Saturday August 10th from 9am – 2pm.  BUILD will be discussed at both of these events and you can get all the details on page 7 of this week’s bulletin.

I’ve made a personal commitment to help Adrienne get BUILD off the ground here at Christ the King and now I’m asking you to consider doing the same.  I’ve attended the BUILD meetings.  I’ve  witnessed the positive results that occur when our politicians face 2500 or more of their citizens respectfully, but firmly, asking for changes that will improve the lives of our brothers and sisters.   Do you want to make a difference in your community?  Make a commitment to make a difference.  I’ve seen the Body of Christ in action with this group, and it’s compelling.  Lives have been changed right here in Lexington because of what BUILD is doing.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus told Martha that there was need for only one thing and that Mary had chosen the better part; which was to sit at Jesus feet and follow his lead.  At our Baptism, we each received a call to actively participate in bringing about the reign of God; to make the Gospel real in our own community.  In the Antiphon for our Responsorial Psalm today, four times we repeated, “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”  (REPEAT)  BUILD is doing just that and I hope many of you will join us in bringing light and life into the lives of our brothers and sisters that are most in need.