16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
TEREBINTH OF MAMRE
The people of the Middle East have always had a fragile existence. They depend on agriculture and domesticated animals for their survival. Thus the fertility of crops and flocks is a serious issue. Equally important was the need for producing heirs. Without welfare or Social Security, the elderly needed offspring to provide for their senior years. Hence there were special rituals meant to guarantee fertility.
Oak trees were considered symbols of fruitfulness. Their shower of acorns suggested propagation. Ancients believed that a barren couple would share in this richness by sleeping under an oak. These large trees were known as "Terebinths".
WHAT IS LACKING IN CHRIST'S AFFLICTIONS
At first glance, Paul's claim to be "filling... what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" seems to be a vain boast. What could be worse than Jesus' sufferings? He was abandoned, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Jesus accepted this torture to build a bond with all people suffer anywhere in any time. The best bond would be love, but since we fail so badly in that virtue, the alternative is a bond of pain.
The missing element in Jesus' suffering is our own involvement. When we "offer up" our own afflictions, we relate to Christ in a way that makes our pain a saving act. We can suffer for others who cannot endure the burden.
Jesus probably traveled to Jerusalem three times a year, throughout his life. He would have taken the safest route, through the Jordan river valley and up the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. Bethany would have been his last stop. He would wait here for Sunrise and the spectacular view of the Temple at dawn. It would seem that he visited the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha to rest the night.
As his fame grew, Lazarus' family would look forward to these arrivals. Martha wants to anticipate his every need. She seems overwrought and stuffy in this scene. She doesn't appear to be saint-material. However, of the three people in the family, she is the one who shows the greatest growth. When her brother dies she is the one who states, "I have come to believe..." Because of this, Martha is the only one of three who is honored by a universal feast day.
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