Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 17, 2022
I was talking with a young couple who will be celebrating the Sacrament of Christian Marriage this fall. At some point in our conversation, I asked the question that often comes to mind when conversing with an engaged couple: How did you guys meet?
They looked at each other and smiled. Almost simultaneously they responded: We met in chemistry class in college.
It was the groom who went on to explain that they sat next to each other and there was immediate chemistry in chemistry In other words, this was a “love at first sight” situation.
Please understand that I DO NOT subscribe to the publication. Still, some limited “online research” about the concept led me to an article in the issue of Bride’s Magazine that hit the newsstands this past May…in time for the opening of wedding season.
In an article titled: Can Love at First Sight Actually Lead to a Lasting Marriage? Author Lauren Levy relied on the observations and experiences of four apparently well-credentialed marriage therapists. Each agreed that there is such a thing as instant attraction…fireworks…a moment when nothing else matters…a feeling that completely engulfs you…that you’ve never felt before and don’t want to end.
Still, these experts caution that while immediate attractions of this intensity are real, the heightened feelings are hard to sustain. The so-called “honeymoon phase” ends after about six months, and very often, so does the relationship!
The experts offer a bit of encouragement, however. They counsel that when couples take the time to really get to know one another, the spark can turn into a flame that fuels and energizes a lifelong marriage. However, this takes work…that never really stops.
(By the way, in spite of their mutual and immediate attraction, my young friends have taken the time needed to insure a lifelong commitment to their marriage covenant. But I will keep them in prayer because…as all married couples know…it is HARD WORK!)
By now, you might be wondering if I’ve taken leave of my senses. First, I admit to reading an article in Bride’s Magazine. And then, even worse, I share what I’ve read in my weekly reflection. But before you delete me, consider this: The Church has long been referred to as THE BRIDE OF CHRIST!
This image of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church is very much supported by passages in the Old as well as the New Testament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes to great lengths to unpack this metaphor, and to explain the symbolism in great detail. It really boils down to Christ’s desire to enter into the most intimate of relationships with us by joining Himself in an everlasting covenant with the Church and “never stops caring for her (His Bride) as for His own Body.”
I would suggest that, for Mary, the visit by Jesus was very much like a case of “Love at first sight” in the extreme! We are told how she sat at The Lord’s feet, basically hanging on His every word. Can’t you imagine an instant attraction…fireworks…a moment when nothing else mattered to her…not even sharing the burden of hospitality with her sister? Can’t you imagine the feeling that completely engulfed her…a feeling that Mary had never felt before…and didn’t want to end?
Martha on the other hand, appears to have been so distracted by the need to sweep the floor that she was not swept off her feet by their Guest…at least not the way her sister was. Still, later in the Gospel, after Lazarus died, she is the first to proclaim her faith: “Yes, Lord! I have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27).
On the surface, this is a lesson that echoes our First Reading in the sense of highlighting the importance of hospitality…and how best to welcome Jesus into our homes and into our hearts. But the deeper meaning might well have to do with how we come to a strong, lasting, intimate union with Christ, that, much like Christian Marriage, transcends time and carries over into Eternity.
Mary certainly makes a convincing case for “love at first sight.” But Martha reminds us that it takes work…to keep the flame alive and burning…and the work never ends.
Prayer, study, contemplation, and reflection…in other words…the “Mary model” of sitting at the feet of The Lord, can be inspiring beyond description…the ultimate experience of LOVE! But, in order to ensure that the infatuation does not cool, the “Martha model” must be considered. In fact, isn’t that what we learn while enjoying the privileged seat near Jesus Christ? Isn’t the call to service the centerpiece of the Gospel?
There was definitely chemistry at work in that humble little home in Bethany. Jesus was the catalyst that combined the elements of contemplation and action, and the result was DISCIPLESHIP!