User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes
Sunday, July 18, is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
Starting with Sunday’s readings, this is a week of family life.
July 19 is the feast of St. Macrina. Oldest daughters in big families often hear: “You must be a saint!” But this was literally true in Macrina’s case — and not only for her. Macrina was the oldest of 10 children. Six family members were saints: Dad was St. Basil the Elder. Mom was St. Emmelia. One of St. Macrina’s little brothers was St. Basil the Great. Another little brother was St. Peter of Sebaste. Another little brother was St. Gregory of Nyssa. These three became bishops; six additional children didn’t become saints — but they all thrived under Macrina’s care, according to St. Gregory’s words about her.
July 23 is the feast of another “family saint”: St. Bridget of Sweden, one of the patronesses of Europe. She’s another saint who raised a saint: In her case, St. Catherine of Sweden, one of her eight children with husband Ulf.
July 24 is the feast of two members of a Russian saint family: Sts. Boris and Gleb were sons of St. Vladimir of Kiev, the first Christian prince of Russia. They had a sad family history, however. Their father had married more than once before becoming a Christian, and one of their brothers killed Boris and Gleb.
July 25 is the feast of not just a family saint but a family apostle: St. James the Greater. St. James is the brother of the St. John the Apostle. Together, he and his brother were the “Sons of Thunder,” present at some of the great events of Christ’s life, such as the Transfiguration, and St. James became an important martyr while acting as a leader in the early Church.
How many saints are there around your dinner table right now?
Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 15:2-5; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42
Today’s readings are perfect for a Sunday that kicks off a week of family saints days.
In the first reading, three angels visit Abraham in a passage that is often taken as a symbolic reference to the Trinity.
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre as he sat in the entrance of his tent,” says the reading. It explains: “Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.”
The fact that they visit Abraham in the context of his home is important. Abraham’s reaction to them is also important.
First, he greets them by “bowing to the ground” — in other words, he speaks to them in both a familiar and a formal way.
Second, he bathes their feet, humbling himself and making himself their servant — doing what Christ himself (the second Person of the Trinity) would later do for his apostles.
Third, he offers them a meal, welcoming them into his family life.
These are the ways we should greet God when he enters our lives: in prayer, in service, and then in our family life.
The angels’ response is to bless Abraham with the gift of life, promising him a son. God’s response to husbands and wives who open their lives to him is often the same great gift: a new family member.
The Gospel also shows how the family unit was a favorite place of repose for Christ when he was here on earth. Christ visits the home of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha.
He teaches them the same thing he taught Abraham, but with a different reward. For these two sisters who have no husbands and no children, he gives a different gift: the gift of himself. He is the family member they gain.
Martha’s complaint is something you would expect a family member to say, and his response is inviting her to “choose the better part,” as Mary has — and as Abraham did. He invites Martha to sit at his feet and speak to him and hear what he has to say.
He invites each of our families to do the same.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.