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Gospel for Sunday, July 17 Luke 10: 38-42

XVI Sunday C

38While they were on their way, he entered a village and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister, named Mary, who, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listened to his word; 40Marta, on the other hand, was completely occupied with the many services. Therefore, coming forward, she said: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me alone to serve? So tell her to help me.” 41But Jesus answered her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and worried about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Maria has chosen the best part for herself, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10: 38-42

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.


Jesus is welcomed into the home of Martha and Mary. Hospitality is a fundamental theme in the Bible.

There are at least three fundamental terms in the Hebrew Bible to indicate the “foreigner” or “foreigner”. Three terms that help us understand Israel’s progressive maturation on the topic of hospitality:

a) The Hebrew word zar indicates the foreigner who lives outside the borders of Israel. There is a sense of fear towards this figure. There is a play on words in Hebrew, which allows us to confuse zar (“foreigner”) with sar (the “enemy” from which we must defend ourselves). The fear of the stranger therefore has very deep roots in the human heart, and is documented by Scripture. This negative consideration of foreign peoples evolves towards more positive tones especially from the moment of the exile in Babylon (around the 6th century BC), when the perception emerges that God entrusts Israel with a mission of salvation for all people (Is 42.6; 49.6).

b) The second term, nokri, is used for the foreigner passing through, who is temporarily among the people for travel or trade reasons (a sort of “economic migrant”). Towards the nokri there are some distinctions that still denote a distance, but no longer a fear (Dt 14,21).

c) “The third word is gher or toshav and is used for the foreigner who resides in Israel. This figure enjoys true legal protection, as appears from the most ancient legislative texts (Ex 22,20)” (C. M. Martini).

The protection of the foreigner

Denying hospitality is a serious affront (1 Sam 25). The Law that God gives to Israel protects the foreigner: woe to you if you defraud him of his wages (Dt 24.14)! He enjoys the same Sabbath rest as the Israelites (Ex 20:10). Even Solomon, consecrating the temple, prays that God will also hear the foreigners who come to pray in the temple itself (1 Kings 8.41-43).

Reasons for welcoming the foreigner

a) The Lord loves the stranger: the God of the Bible has a characteristic, a peculiarity: a predilection for the poor. And the foreigner is certainly a “poor”, in a land not his own and without legal protection. Israel must protect foreigners because they are loved in a particular way by God: “The Lord… loves the foreigner” (Dt 10,18). And God asks us to love foreigners like him: “Therefore love the foreigner” (Dt 10,19)!

b) We are all foreigners: Israel must protect the foreigner because he must never forget that he lived as a foreigner in Egypt. For this reason God requires that no harassment be done to the foreigner: “You shall not harass the foreigner or oppress him, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22,20).

c) We are all guests of God: Israel knows that it is also a guest in the Promised land: “because the land is mine and you are with me as strangers and tenants” (Lev 25,23). Christians too are “pàroikoi kaì parepìdemoi”, “foreigners and pilgrims” (1 Pt 2,11) who temporarily reside in this world: “paroikìa” (1 Pt 1,17), from which our “Parish” is from “parà oikìa”, “near the houses”, passing nomad.

d) The Christological reason: the example of Jesus, who became a guest of men, and invites all men to be guests in the Father’s house, make hospitality one of the main virtues of Christian life. The command is precise: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you” (Rom 15:7). Jesus, in his life, experiences not being welcomed: “Mary… gave birth to her firstborn son… and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2,7) ; and he must flee as a refugee to Egypt because he is persecuted by Herod (Mt 2.13); even in his mission he is often rejected (Lk 9,52-56).

The great news is that even Jesus identifies himself with anyone who needs to be hosted: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Mt 10.40). “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25.35): “to express hospitality, Jesus here uses a verb (sunago) whose basic meaning is to gather, bring together scattered things. Hence the sense of gathering those who are lost, hosting them in the same house, uniting them with groups of brothers. This verb so rich in meaning is mentioned three times in Matthew 25. It doesn’t just mean help, but precisely acceptance” (B. Maggioni), integration into the community.

Hospitality is a sacred duty for all Christians, and all the writings of the early Church recommend it. In his first letter Peter exhorts philoxenìa, hospitality, literally “love for strangers” (1 Pt 4,9). Paul invites us to be “thoughtful in hospitality” (Rom 12:13). The letter to the Hebrews reminds us to host our brother is to host God: “Do not forget hospitality; some, by practicing it, have welcomed angels without knowing it” (Heb 13.2; cf. Gen 18.3; 19.2).

e) The eschatological reason: the poor and foreigners will be the gatekeepers of Paradise for us, those who will or will not receive us in the heavenly homes: “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that… they may welcome you into eternal homes” (Lk 16.9 ).

“In the «strangers» the Church sees Christ who «pitches his tent among us» (Jn 1,14) and who «knocks at our door» (Rev 3,20). If we do not know how to welcome foreigners, we will not have known how to welcome Jesus. And we too will enter the sad group of those mentioned in the Prologue of John, when he states with bitterness: “He came among his people, but his own did not welcome him ” (Jn 1:11).

Service or contemplation?

Luke placed this episode immediately after the parable of the Samaritan (10.25-37) to illustrate the two faces of the one commandment: love for one’s neighbor and love for the Lord. Service and charity towards others, listening and discipleship towards the Lord.

The words with which Jesus responds to Martha remind us that the service must not involve us to the point that we forget to listen. Serving the table is not more important than listening to the Word (see Acts 6:1-2).

Pope Francis, commenting on this passage, stated that “Jesus takes advantage of the way these two sisters acted to teach us how the life of a Christian should go forward”. On the one hand there is “Mary, who listened to the Lord”, on the other there is Martha, “busy in the services, “distracted”, as the Gospel says… she was too busy: the jobs took her. And she didn’t have time to look at Jesus, to contemplate Jesus… There are many Christians who go to mass on Sundays, but then they are busy, always…; they become followers of that religion which is “busyness”… One could say to them: “Stop, look at the Lord, take the Gospel, listen to the Word of the Lord, open your heart”… These lack contemplation… Martha peace was missing: wasting time looking at the Lord… To know which side we are on, if we exaggerate because we go into too abstract, even gnostic, contemplation, or if we are too busy, we must ask ourselves the question: “I am in love with the Lord” …? Look at the heart, contemplate!”.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

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