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SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Year
C) 21st July 2019
from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel Luke 10:38-42
as they went on their way, he entered a certain village,
where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She
had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet
and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted
by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord,
do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the
work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the
Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried
and distracted by many things; there is need of only one
thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be
taken away from her.”
HOSPITALITY – A CLASH OF TEMPERMENTS
would be hard to find a more vivid character drawing with
a greater economy of words than we find in today’s
Gospel (Luke 10: 38-42). So, let us remind ourselves briefly
of what was said. Martha, burdened with serving, came to
Jesus and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister
has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help
me’. Jesus said in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you
are anxious and worried about many things, there is need
for only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part and it
will not be taken from her’. Sibling rivalry is universal
and often one of the siblings implores a trusted friend to
resolve the dispute. Such is the case in today’s Gospel.
Martha and Mary have radically different definitions of hospitality.
For Martha hospitality demands service, while Mary defines
hospitality as presence. Some people are dynamos of activity,
while others are naturally quiet, and it is hard for the
active person to understand the person who sits and contemplates.
There is no right or wrong in this, as God did not make everyone
alike. One poet put it nicely,
Lord of all pots and pans
Since I have no time to be
A saint by doing lovely
Or watching late with thee,
Or dreaming in the dawn
Or storming heaven’s gates
Make me a saint by
And washing up the plates.
God needs his Marys
and his Marthas too – both are serving God. Jesus clearly
sided with Mary’s choice of presence, chiding Martha
about her anxious and worried nature.
Martha and Mary are not the only ones debating the virtues
of service and contemplation. Church history is filled with
conflicting views about which way is best. For centuries
contemplative religious life was seen as the best way to
serve God. Then active religious communities founded by saintly
people such as Nano Nagle and Don Bosco offered another choice.
Finally, Vatican II proclaimed a universal call to holiness,
stating that all states in life are of equal importance.
Our call is not in question, how we live out our call is
Think where Jesus was going when this row broke out. He was
on his way to Jerusalem to die. His whole being was taken
up with the intensity of the inner battle to bend his will
to that of the Father.
When Jesus came to that home in Bethany it was a great day;
and Martha was eager to celebrate it by laying on the best
she could provide. So, she rushed and fussed and cooked and
that is precisely what Jesus did not want. All he wanted
was quiet, to find an oasis of calm away from the demanding
crowds if only for an hour or two; and that is what Mary
gave him and what Martha in her kindness, did her best to
forego. ‘One thing is necessary’ – quite
possibly this means, ‘I don’t want a big spread;
one course, the simplest meal is all I want’. It was
a case where Mary understood, and Martha did not.
If we are trying to be kind, the first necessity is to try
to see into the heart of the person we want to help – and
then to forget all our own plans and to think only of what
he or she needs. Jesus loved Martha and Martha loved Jesus,
but when Martha set out to be kind, it had to be her own
way of being kind. Jesus also loved Mary and Mary loved Jesus,
but Mary understood. Once we know and love our Saviour, then
our service rises up from a holy place within us. In a few
words, Faith, Hope, Love and Hospitality saves us.
Archdeacon of Glendalough