(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm; Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
20/21 July 2013
(Readings: Gen 18:1-10; Ps 14:2-5; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42)
The first reading today is a beautiful story of hospitality, and particularly the hospitality of welcoming strangers. The Letter to the Hebrews (13:2) alludes to this story when it says that some people have entertained angels without realizing it. Abraham’s generous hospitality to the three strangers is rewarded with a promise: that he and Sarah would have a child by that time next year. Perhaps we are reminded of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who speak with the stranger walking with them … who turns out to be the Risen Lord himself.
Hospitality to others, particularly to those who are not our friends and family, is an important part of our tradition. When World Youth Day was held in Sydney and we welcomed pilgrims from overseas, my parishioners at the time spoke of what a huge blessing it was for them to welcome these “strangers” into their homes. In fact, it gave the whole parish a lift to extend this hospitality.
As we hear this story in the first reading we can reflect on the way that we welcome others into our lives. We pray for hearts that are open to the blessings that the Lord wants to give us through those He sends across our path.
Today’s Gospel story is also centred around the hospitality being offered to Jesus by Martha and Mary. There are many things we can draw from this story.
Firstly, Mary is praised for listening to Jesus. We are reminded that we must listen to God before we act. Our actions will only be right and meaningful if they are what God wants us to do … and the only way we’ll know that is if we listen. The great figures of the Scriptures always had a moment when they listened and heard the word of God speaking to them, and then they acted. Once we’ve listened, then we can act in a way that is in accord with God’s will.
One example from the Old Testament is King David, who wanted to build a Temple for the Lord. This would seem like a worthy and good thing to do. But the Lord spoke through the prophet Nathan saying that David was not the one who would build the Lord a temple. David, to his credit, listened, and acted: he didn’t build the temple.
Secondly, Mary is praised for choosing the better part, or doing the one thing necessary. This is contrasted with Martha who is anxious and stressed about many things. The problem is not so much that Martha is busy, but rather that in her busyness, she has lost her connection to the one thing necessary: to be close to her Lord. For, if she hadn’t lost that connection, then she wouldn’t have been bothered in the slightest about being busy, because everything she was doing was meant to be for Jesus. This highlights that the one thing necessary that we must get right in our lives is our relationship with the Lord. If we get that one thing right, then everything else will follow.
Another thing this Gospel can keep before our minds is a warning against activism. Our world praises and encourages activity. We seem to feel good when we tell others just how busy we are, and how much we can fill our days with. We probably feel guilty to tell others when we didn’t do much at all. We tell others to “smell the roses” but we don’t want them to take too long doing it. Activity, work, action, mission are all important – and we all have some work to do – but we must remember – even as a Church – that the point of all our activity and mission is to lead us and others into deeper communion with the Lord. Communion with the Lord has priority over action, because communion with the Lord is what is going to last for ever: toil, labour, activity, will pass. As important as the work of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity is, when we get to heaven their work will be completely unnecessary, it will no longer be needed. But the point of their work – communion with God – will be all in all.
A final thing that we can take from today’s Gospel is the lesson it teaches about Jesus’ call to discipleship. In the Gospels we see Jesus breaking social conventions so as to call everyone into discipleship: we see Jesus’ relationship with sinners, with non-Jews, and with women (e.g. his forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery, his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, the fact that women were the first messengers of the Resurrection).
In the social milieu of Jesus’ time, when a learned person came to the house, it was for the men to sit at the learned person’s feet in the position of discipleship. It was also the convention that women would be in the kitchen, preparing the food. Part of the reason why Martha was so upset at Mary, was that Mary had the temerity to assume the position of men. The story, then, is yet another example of the fact that Jesus calls all people to be his disciple. We all know that in baptism there is a fundamental equality of dignity of all the baptised.
Mary of today’s Gospel can be seen as the great forerunner of all the great women who have sat at Jesus’ feet and become great disciples: people like Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St Mary MacKillop.
Today let’s be reminded that the Lord Jesus calls every single one of us into discipleship. How is your relationship with Christ? That relationship is what is going to endure into eternity, it is the most important thing in your life – the one thing necessary; more important than any of the most important works or activities that occupy our attention. Let’s pray that we will come to Christ and sit at his feet as Mary did, so that we can truly and fully become his disciples.