16 Sunday C: Mary and Martha: Work and Worship


Gospel Text: Luke 10:38-42
Jesus & Martha
*******************************************************
Michel de Verteuil
General Textual Comments
Here is another very famous story which you must meditate on personally, letting yourself be guided by your feelings.
The passage has given rise to deep and sometimes mystical interpretations, but at root it is a simple story of human relationships and your meditation must start there.
You may like to focus on Jesus. See him as a model human being, receiving the hospitality of the sisters, accepting the love of Mary, teaching Martha wisdom, kindly but firmly.

Jesus, martha and MaryThough the Catholic tradition has tended to favour Mary over Martha, some have found that Martha was in fact the more mature of the two. Identify with whichever of the two you feel attracted to, letting the other one be a lesson by way of contrast.
The key to the passage is the little phrase “the better part.” Your personal meditation will guide you in making your interpretation.

Scripture Reflections
Lord, many people misunderstand hospitality.
They worry and fret about preparing plenty of food and decorating the house.
But few things are needed to make people feel at home,
indeed only one, which is to sit with our guests and listen to them speaking.
Jesus and M&MLord, we pray for parents today.
Let them not fall into the error of worrying and fretting
about doing many things for their children,
then complaining that no one is helping them.
Remind them that the only essential thing
is to sit down at the feet of their children and listen to them.
Lord, so often we keep busy, complaining about all we have to do,
and that our brothers and sisters are leaving us to do all the work by ourselves.
We  even ask you to tell them to help us.
We thank you for that day when you sent someone to speak to us
– a sermon in church,
– one of our children told us we were insincere,
– we found ourselves committing a sin.
We felt hurt and angry
But now we realize that it was Jesus speaking to us as he spoke to Martha,
showing us that we really were running away
from the one thing we needed more than any other,
to spend more time at prayer,
to sit at your feet and listen as you show us the truth about ourselves.
“The creator, the source of all, is in the heart of each one of us.” …The Upanishads
Lord, there is a Martha and a Mary within each of us
– a part of ourselves which is active and busy,
– another part which sits at your feet and listens trustingly to your word.
We need our active self to accomplish your will,
but the listening self is the best part,
and we must not allow it to be taken from us.
Lord, we thank you for listening communities,
-Bible sharing groups;
– alcoholics anonymous;
– Montessori schools.
What marks them out from others is simplicity.
Those responsible know that few things are needed to make a community,
and the one thing that must not be taken away
is listening to every member of the group as if sitting at the Lord’s feet.
“The West Indian people have not waited on governments; they have integrated in their own informal but highly effective way.”  …Report of the West Indian Commission, June 1992
Lord, we pray for our leaders.
They worry and fret about many things, and even complain
that the people leave them to do the serving all by themselves,
when in fact they are neglecting the one thing that is needed most of all,
which is to sit at the feet of their people and listen to them.
*****************************************
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
Welcome! Today we recall a small incident in the life of Jesus. Going along a road he came to a village and was welcomed into a house. There one sister, having to get the meal, complained that the other just sat and listened to Jesus; and Jesus says that this second sister, named Mary, ‘has chosen the better part and it is not to be taken from her’. This Mary is a model of discipleship for us. We are frequently busy with many things, but are we spending time listening to the voice of the Lord, are we reflecting on his wisdom, are we meditating on his goodness and wonder as we see it around us in the creation, are we recalling his gift of life, are we rejoicing in the presence of the Word made flesh?

Gospel Notes
This scene is found only in Luke, and is the story of one of a series of meals which are related in his gospel. Each shows the Christ with a different company, with a slightly different take on the nature of the welcome he receives from the householder and which he gives to those at table with him. For, while these meals always take place in another person’s house, it is clear that it is Jesus’s table: he is the host of the meal.
When this gospel was preached, the scene clues provided would have immediately made the audience recognise this as a meal of disciples and they would have read it eucharistically. This is not something that comes immediately to us for two reasons.
First, we have so developed the theological interpretation of the meal, that we fail to see the meal under the theology. Yet without the meal, there is nothing to be a sacrament of anything!
Second, we make a radical distinction — even when we are trying to study the early church — between the meals of the community and ‘The Eucharist’. But this distinct item of practice, along with its name, did not emerge until the second century. However, we still read the gospels as if only the Last Supper (and possibly Emmaus) relate to the Eucharist; while all the other meals are just informal settings so that Jesus could preach. This distorts Luke. For him to be a Christian disciple was to belong to the community and its common practices at the core of which was the weekly gathering at table in continuity with the practice of Jesus. In this gathering, the medium was the message. So every meal story was a teaching about the importance of being at the meal with the Lord.
It is from this perspective of the praxis of Luke’s audience that this text is interpreted in the homily notes. However, while the ‘message’ of this scene is tied up with the contrast between the actions of Martha and Mary, it should be noted that the traditional interpretation (going back to John Cassian) that it is the contrast between two ways of life, the active and the contemplative, is an imposition upon it from ‘spiritual’ interpretation. This is not a charter for a two-tier church, nor a plan for a pecking order between various religious orders in the church. The contrast concerns ways of behaving at the meal, and the reference to the ‘better share’ (meris) uses the exact same term used for the share (i.e. the broken parts of the loaf) each member of the community had in the Lord’s loaf.

Homily Notes
1. The scene in the gospel could not be simpler – it appears. Jesus happens to be going down a road and meets a village and accepts hospitality, there is some talk, and then, for the gospel teller, he moves on getting ever closer to the ‘centre stage’ in Jerusalem. But the early Christians froze this mo­ment in their memories as something significant; and we have been recalling it ever since. Why?
2. Somehow this encounter was, for Luke, a vignette capturing something essential about Jesus. It somehow gave in a ‘snap shot’ something that was true of all encounters with the risen Lord. But how can we grasp the essence of this story and see how it might – as part of the kerygma – characterise our en­counters with Jesus?
J+woman3. The place to start is with the common elements: a village, a house, a meal, sitting at table, discussion. This is one more of these meal events – particularly prominent in Luke – that re­mind us that Jesus was ‘a party animal’. The meetings with those who were his followers and those who would listen are often shown to take place around the dining table. This was not just’ a quick bite on the way from work’ – his gathering of people around him at meals was at the very heart of the Lord’s work. To learn about Jesus and to be with him is to eat with him; and his meals model the perfect new community and offer a taste of the welcome of the Father in the final ban­quet.
4. We think of communities as ‘cities’ and churches as ‘parishes’ with hundreds of people. We usually think of our gatherings not being in a house – the ‘House Mass’ or ‘Station Mass’ is an increasingly rare phenomenon – but in special formal buildings called’ churches’ and then they are often built to fit hundreds. We tend to think of ‘getting Mass’, not of ‘sitting around the Lord’s table.’ And, we may see the table when we gather but we call it an’ altar’. Gathering for any meal around a table where we talk may be something done only rarely as we eat’ fast food’ or food off trays in front of a screen. So our gatherings do not immediately remind us of the meal in Martha’s house; and reading of that meal seems very distinct from sitting here on Sunday. Two factors create the separ­ation: the first is sheer scale – we think of large groups and many such gatherings each Sunday; and second we use a lan­guage and a formality that obscures some of the basic shape of our encounter with the Lord at his supper
5. We should recall that for most of our history Christians have lived and worshipped in very small villages.
The Church of Peter - Early meetings of the first Christians of Antioch were held in
The Church of Peter – Early meetings of the first Christians of Antioch were held here.
In an ancient city like Corinth the Christians would have had a village-like existence and met in groups of 50 at most, and so would have had a real meal experience. This is what Luke knows and ex­periences and what his audience knows and experiences. To meet for the meal/the Eucharist is the central act of the disci­pIes’ week as Christians. There they gather to be participants in the presence of the Lord as their welcoming host. There they share his food and his life and listen to his words. There the key is to be focused on the Lord – Mary – rather than focused on the mechanics of the meeting and the meal ­Martha.
6.The gospel today reminds us that the Word has become flesh, and he sits among us. He shares his table with us – the most basic human experience of welcome and sharing. We are dis­ciples and sit with him and listen and learn from him so that we can grow to be fully-trained disciples.
7. Luke’s message today could be summed up as: To know Jesus is to eat with him.
8. There is always a surprise at Jesus’s meals: have you noticed this is a house that is owned by a woman? This is most un­usual in the ancient world. Have you noticed that Jesus ac­cepts women as full table companions – they can sit with him and talk with him? Again, not something that was at all usual in the ancient world. But Jesus broke down all the barriers to welcome at his table for that welcome was intended to show the welcome of the Father at the heavenly table.
******************************************** 
Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
That the incident in the house of Martha and Mary should follow immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan suggests a possible connection. One aspect of Christian living is highlighted in the parable by the words ‘go and do likewise’. Being a disciple is not about ideas, it is about action.
folowing jesus
However, the Martha and Mary story shows that sometimes the action can be misdirected and undertaken in a way that makes us lose sight of what really matters. We have to be careful here, because Jesus is not telling Martha that her work is not important, nor is he commending Mary for doing nothing. He is simply reminding his followers that if we want to serve him we must first listen to him — we need to be people of prayer before we can be people of action. Otherwise our actions can just be about us and it is possible to do good things for all kinds of bad reasons like,for example, our need to be needed or our exaggerated belief in the importance of our own contribution. Such behaviour can easily undermine the message of the good news which must always be about Jesus and his kingdom.

Reflection
‘The mystery is Christ among you.’ The word mystery is sometimes used as a way of avoiding having to work something out or even reflect on it. Paul, however, never used it in that way. For him Christ reveals the mystery of God, he does not hide it and so if we want to know God we must try to recognise the presence of Christ around us. As with Abraham in the first reading God may be coming to us as the one in need. If our hearts are not generous and welcoming, how often have we turned God away and in turn failed to experience the generosity he wants to bestow on us? Martha and Mary can also teach us something about recognising the Christ among us. They remind us that sometimes we need to ‘waste’ some time just being attentive, listening prayerfully to his words.Listen to Jesus
 
4. Donal Neary S.J.

Jesus and hospitality: God’s footprints

The half door on the old Irish house had many functions. It kept the animals out while allowing the family to look out. It also made for openness and hospitality for all who passed by. The traveller was welcomed and the one walking by could rest for a while. We were open to the world and the world to us, and we felt safe.
Hospitality was important in Jesus’ time. He made many a visit to the house of Martha and Mary, staying there when he wanted to go to Jerusalem. They enjoyed having him – Mary just sat there listening to him – the stranger, now a friend, who told stories of how life could best be lived. I can imagine him telling the parables in their house.
hospitalityThe people then had a belief in the travelling and pilgrim God, the one who came our way often. The first reading is about strangers being entertained and the people didn’t know that the Lord was visiting them. When we open our heart and home to the stranger and to the neighbour we are receiving God into our lives.
The Indian poet Tagore writes – ‘and when you left I saw God’s footprints on the floor.’
aloneOur fear of break-ins and of robbery today is destroying an easy accessibility in our neighbourhoods. Casual hospitality is more difficult than in the days of the half-door. Maybe Facebook and Twitter and other social media fulfil some of this function, impersonal though it may be. We cannot live in isolation. ‘Self knows that self is not enough‘ writes the poet, Brendan Kennelly.
For friendship and love, especially when I find it in unexpected places and people, thank you, Lord.

*****
From the Connections:

THE WORD:
The sisters Martha and Mary mirror the two expressions of the disciple’s call: loving service to others (Martha) and prayer and contemplation (Mary).  But as Martha comes to realize in today's Gospel, discipleship begins with hearing the Word of God, with opening our hearts and spirits to the presence of God.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
We are all like Martha in our own anxiety over details; we worry about the peripherals at the expense of the important and lasting.  “The better part” embraced by Mary transcends the pragmatic and practical concerns of the everyday (that have overwhelmed poor Martha) and sees the hand of God in all things and realizes the gratitude all of creation owes its loving Creator for the gift of life.
With so many agendas demanding our time and attention, Jesus calls us to consciously choose and seek out “the better part”: to make a place in our lives for the joy and love of family and friends that is the presence of God.
It is a motto of Benedictine monasteries around the world:  “Let all be received here as would Christ” (The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 53).  Like Abraham’s welcome of the three strangers (today’s first reading from Genesis 18) and the welcome Martha, Mary and Lazarus extend to Jesus in Bethany, hospitality is not only a holy responsibility but also a joyful opportunity to welcome and serve Jesus in the persons those who come to our tables.

‘A simple human thing’
A psychologist ran every morning in a park near her home before going to her office.  She often met a colleague there, a well-known psychiatrist.  Without any formal arrangement, they had run together every morning for many years.  But after she was diagnosed with cancer, somehow her running companion was never there.  A strong and determined woman, she continued to run, despite a difficult course of surgery and chemotherapy.  After a few months of running alone, she called the psychiatrist, but he never returned the call.
About a year after the completion of her treatment, she took a different path on her run one morning and saw the psychiatrist running up ahead.  Being twenty years younger, she caught up with him easily.  As they ran side by side, she told her one-time running companion that she was hurt by his not calling back.  Everyone in their small professional community knew about her cancer.  Surely he had heard.
The psychiatrist replied, “I’m sorry.  I simply did not know what to say.”
What would she have wanted to hear?
“Oh, something like, ‘I heard it’s been a hard year.  How are you doing?’  Some simple human thing like that.”
[From Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]
 
Too often, we hide behind our credentials, our expertise, our work, our designated role or function in order to avoid the awkwardness of simply being human.  Like the psychiatrist in the story, we can be experts in the science of hurt but find ourselves too afraid to extend the simplest form of healing; like Martha in the Gospel, we bury ourselves in our work and agendas and calendars to avoid loving and being loved by our “guests.”  Jesus invites each one of us to make a place in our lives for the “better part” — for welcoming the joy and love of family and friends that is the very presence of God.  
****
From Father James Gilhooley
 
The story is told of the father who after work would take a long walk with his teen-age daughter. He took great pleasure in her company. Suddenly she began to offer almost daily excuses as to why she could not accompany him. He was hurt but held his tongue. Finally his birthday arrived. His daughter presented him with a sweater that she had knitted. Then he realized that she had done her knitting when he was out of the house for his walk. He said to her, "Martha, Martha, I do appreciate this sweater. But I value your company infinitely more. A sweater I can buy in any store. But you I cannot buy. Please never abandon me again." From the record, we can establish the Teacher stayed at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany outside Jerusalem many times. He stayed there in the last three months of the year 29 when He was busily working the Jerusalem territory. He would stay in this house the first four days of Holy Week. The sisters were not only generous hostesses but also bold ones.

At this point, Jesus was walking about with a price on His head. He was an outlaw. His picture was in every post office. They hardly would find themselves in good favor with the police, the Temple authorities, and probably the Romans. Surely they were liberated women. They would have no need to join a feminist support group. But I am certain that they were quite aware that the Master was running a risk Himself in being their guest. Accepting hospitality from women was clearly forbidden by Rabbinic law. In addition, He had from their first encounter taken great pains to offer them instruction. This would not make Him popular with the male world in general or with the authorities. The Christ was no doubt the only man in their circle who did not patronize them. He treated them as equals. What a welcome change that must have been for these intelligent women! They must have been so tired of being treated like children. No wonder Dorothy Sayers writes, "Perhaps it is no wonder that women were the first at the cradle and the last at the cross. They had never known a man like this Man..." Do check out that Martha saluted the Teacher as "Lord" in verse 40 of today's Gospel. So, quite obviously these women realized they had a tiger by the tail.

Walk carefully then. The Gospel is clearly talking about divinity. We all know the story. Martha is exhausting herself putting together a meal worthy of a five star restaurant for the Lord. She is setting out the Irish linen, the Wedgewood china, the Tiffany silver, and the Steuben crystal. She has arranged a spray of anemones from her garden as a centerpiece. She is chilling the Dom Perignon champagne. All this time of course her sister Mary is enjoying the company of their guest in the air-conditioned coolness of the family room. Martha is hardly amused. She storms into the room. There is Jesus with His worn sandals off and His feet up on the barca lounge. Mary is drinking in every word the Teacher speaks. She looks as though she wished she owned a Sony tape recorder. However, the Japanese had not yet reached Palestine. It is a pity for us that they had not.

Martha loses her cool and sounds off with a bitter indictment of Mary the shirker. For her pains, all she gets from the Christ is a wrap-around smile and a healthy chuckle. It does not improve her mood when she hears Him say in verses 42, "It is Mary who has chosen the better part." Many of us have been seduced by what has been called the heresy of good works. We neglect Jesus' company. Our prayer life grinds to a screeching halt and goes off the boards. We disregard His invitation to come apart and rest awhile. We forget the sage who advises that if Christians do not come apart and rest awhile, they may just come apart. As the man says, if we are too busy to pray, we are too busy. After all, he goes on, God speaks only to those who take time to listen. We should reflect on Thomas Merton's line that "it is becoming increasingly evident that the only people in the world who are happy are the ones who know how to pray." And, as Joseph Donders observes, Mary knew Jesus needed company that day. He needed not a housekeeper but a listener.

****
Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today's first reading from Genesis describes God's homely visit to the house of Abraham and the warm welcome and generous hospitality God receives from Abraham. God appears in the garbs of three strangers who are passing by in front of Abraham's tent as he relaxes at mid-day. He does not recognize the divine visitors immediately but he goes out of his way to welcome them into his home and to offer them the best meal he can offer to make them comfortable. The strangers come with a special blessing from God for Abraham and his wife Sarah. After enjoying their hospitality, the strangers announce the promise of God that Sarah will bear a son. The story reveals how God deals familiarly and personally with his friends and is interested in their personal well-being. We need to be open to God's coming and promises.

In Greek mythology the story is told of how God Jupiter once visited the earth with his son Mercury. They disguised themselves as weary travelers and knocked on many doors in their search for shelter. Time after time they were ignored and left in the street. Eventually they came to a small cottage which was the home of an old couple Philemon and Baucis. When the two travelers knocked on the door, it was soon opened and they were welcomed inside. The old man filled a bowl with hot water so that the guests could wash; the old woman put on her apron and started to prepare a meal. While all this was happening the conversation flowed easily but no identities were revealed. When all was ready, the hot stew was placed on the table with a pitcher of wine. But as the wine was drunk it renewed itself in the pitcher, and the old couple were struck with terror when they realized they were entertaining gods. They implored forgiveness for their poor hospitality but the gods invited them to make a wish. As they discussed it in between them the old couple expressed their shared prayer: "Since we have passed our life together in love and concord we wish to die at the same time so neither of us has to live in grief." Their prayer was answered and when they grew very old they both died in peace. - We are all visited by God and invited to welcome Him and his word and give it our full attention. The way we continue having God as our guest, is when we welcome his word and attend to it. In a way, we are the Lord's host and guest.

Denis McBride in 'Seasons of the Word'

 In today's gospel Jesus speaks of keeping the greatest of the commandments -the only commandment to be observed, the commandment of love. He combines the teaching of the law from Deuteronomy and Leviticus: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and love your neighbour as yourself.' The disciples were ready to accept the first part of the commandment, that of loving God with full commitment, but who is the neighbour whom they were called to love? Is the neighbour literally the one next door? Is the neighbour a person of my ethnic group? Is my neighbour one from my religious sect or group? Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that neither religion, nor nationality can set limits to one's responsibility to come to the aid of our fellow human being. The duty to help a needy human being cannot be coloured by personal feelings or inclinations. The Samaritan showed by his actions that he recognized his neighbour even in the hated Jew. The lawyer who came to Jesus asked: Who is my neighbour? Jesus could have answered with a definition or short answer but he was more concerned about responding to the person behind the question. After telling the parable Jesus asked the lawyer, 'Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour?' The changed question shifted the emphasis from defining the restrictions of neighbourly love to exploring the demands of love. We therefore dare not ask, 'Who is my neighbour?' but rather, 'How can I be a good neighbour?' The love of God cannot be separated from the love of our neighbour. There is only one commandment and there can be only one love, the love of God seen in the way we deal with any and every human being. God is love and the only way to come to him is in love. The time for this love is now. And the place for its expression is today's reality as it meets me on the road and stares me in the face.


We do not live on bread alone
I remember some years ago when I used to visit home, I just wanted to spend a little time sitting and talking and my mother was always trying to serve something to eat, even if I had just had supper. Frustrating! Now she is in a nursing home and when I visit, she is not trying to feed me. We both just enjoy the visit. On the other hand, I have heard from so many wives how their husbands never have time to sit down and talk. They're always busy doing something or else half asleep in front of the TV. They complain "I feel like I'm all alone." In too many families today, the family members are too busy to listen to one another, to talk to one another, to feed one another emotionally. We do not live on bread alone! In today's gospel Jesus says; "Mary has chosen the better part."  Perhaps he was saying to Martha, "This is a golden opportunity; here is the Son of God coming to visit you and you're worried about chopping up the parsley!" or perhaps he was saying "you're trying to put out an eight course meal, Martha, and we would be happy with just a sandwich," or perhaps he was saying "maybe we ought to think of feeding the spirit before feeding our faces;" or perhaps he was saying "maybe we need to spend a little time enjoying each other's company before we get all uptight about dinner."Joe Robinson in 'Guiding Light'

Focus on what is more important
There was a man who wanted to prove his love for his wife. So he climbed the highest mountain and swam the deepest sea. When he returned, his wife was gone because he was never at home! There is another story about a father who after work would take a long walk with his teenage daughter. He took great pleasure in her company. Suddenly she began to offer almost daily excuses as to why she could not accompany him. He was hurt but he held his tongue. Finally his birthday arrived. His daughter presented him a sweater she had knitted. Then he realized that she had done her knitting when he was out of the house for his walk. He said to her, "Martha, Martha, I do appreciate this sweater. But I value your company infinitely more. A sweater I can buy in any store. But you I cannot buy. Please never abandon me again." -People need company, a listener. In our daily life, it is important to focus on the right thing. Sometime we forget what is important and we focus on the wrong thing. This is what the gospel reading teaches us today.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'

 "Jesus drops by to visit his friends Mary and Martha. Martha fussed about getting a meal for Jesus while Mary sits listening to him. Mary complains about the unfairness of the situation but Jesus seems to take the part of Mary and says, "Martha. Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her." This story is not a condemnation of activity and an extolling of contemplation. The story comes immediately after the Parable of the Good Samaritan which has the clear message that you cannot be a loving person if you do not get up and do something for others. The story makes the point that if our activity is to be wise and fruitful there must also be times of stillness, of prayer, of being in touch with our own inner worlds and being open to intimacy - to hear the inner worlds of others. Christian meditation is just being still in the presence of the Lord. It is a being still with truth, the creation of a space where our inner selves can speak. It is a way of accepting our whole being in such a way that our inner spiritual and emotional lives will be integrated with the activities in which we engage. It is a prayer that will make us recognize the subtle ways in which we all become imprisoned and lead us out of these prisons into more wholesome relationships with ourselves, others and ultimately with God."
Gerry Pierse

What a waste of time!
The wedding of Tessie and John was one of the great social events of the early 1980's. The social columns in the newspapers wrote up how lovely they looked and how blessed they both were with foreign degrees in management. As addition to their competence they also had enough family influence to land them in managerial positions within a few years. Now, fourteen years later they have four beautiful children living in a beautiful house, cared for by the best maids, attended to by the best physicians when they get sick, enrolled in the best schools. They themselves leave the house early in the morning in their separate cars. They are successful but at a price. They are slaves of the culture in which they live and of the expectations that their roles impose on them. They often have to socialize with the right people even if they would much prefer to be at home. Seldom do they have time to really be with one another - to be without a schedule or an agenda. The children have become projects to be managed rather than human beings with which to waste time. Already the school has been reporting rebellious attention gaining behavior in their eldest child. How could this be when they had got the best of everything from their parents? Maybe they got presents instead of presence! -The story of Tessie and John might be a modern parable on the issue that Jesus tackles in today's Gospel story.
Gerry Pierse in 'Sundays into Silence'


Today's first reading from Genesis describes God's homely visit to the house of Abraham and the warm welcome and hospitality God receives from Abraham. God appears in the garb of three strangers who are passing by Abraham's tent. He does not recognize the divine visitors immediately but he goes out of his way to welcome them and make them comfortable. After enjoying the hospitality, the strangers reveal the blessing and promise of God that Sarah will bear a son. The story reveals how God deals familiarly with his friends. We need to be open to God's coming and God's promises that come to us in strange unforeseen ways.

The Promise Keeper
Martin Luther King Jr. shortly after assuming his role as community leader and activist started receiving phone calls threatening his life and family. One night a caller ordered him to leave town in three days or risk having his home firebombed. Unable to sleep, King went into the kitchen hoping to find some relief in a warm cup of coffee. He sat at his kitchen table wrestling with his present crisis and came face-to-face with the fact that he could lose his newborn daughter or wife at any moment. Looking within himself, King prayed, "Lord I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think I'm right. I think the cause we represent is right. But I'm weak now. I'm faltering and I'm losing my courage." At that moment King heard a voice saying, "Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth and 'Lo, I will be with you even till the end of the world."' From then on, King was sustained by God's promise to be with him.
Prince Rainy Rivers in 'Text this week'

Today's gospel story speaks of Jesus' visit to the house of Martha and Mary and the welcome he received in this home. The two sisters of Lazarus display different temperaments and attitudes towards Jesus. While one is concerned with doing things for Jesus the other is more at home being with Jesus. In this reading Jesus refers to something more spiritual rather than being busy and worrying about material necessities, the need of giving undivided attention to the Lord. Jesus' approval of Mary's eagerness to listen to his word shows us that his followers should not be so preoccupied with doing things as to forget the need of prayerful reflection and recollection. Mary quite clearly represents the ideal disciple who sits at the Lord's feet and listens to his teachings. Martha is reprimanded not for her service but for her being 'anxious' and 'troubled'. Service to mankind which is not the fruit of contemplation becomes merely humanitarianism, while contemplation which does not lead to service is incomplete. Prayer has to lead to action and action has to colour and motivate us to pray more. All Christian prayer has to be a contemplative response.

What a waste of time!
The wedding of Tessie and John was one of the great social events of the early 1980's. The newspapers wrote how lovely they looked and how blessed they both were with foreign degrees in management. As addition to their competence they also had enough family influence to land them in managerial positions. Now, fourteen years later they have four beautiful children living in a beautiful house, enrolled in the best schools. They themselves leave the house early in the morning in their separate cars. They are successful but at a price. They are slaves of the culture in which they live. Seldom do they have time to really be with one another. The children have become projects to be managed rather than human beings with which to waste time. Already the school has been reporting rebellious attention gaining behaviour in their eldest child. Maybe they got presents instead of presence! -The story of Tessie and John might be a modern parable on the issue that Jesus tackles in today's Gospel story.
Fr. Gerry Pierse in 'Sundays into Silence'

 

Making Choices
The American Psychotherapist and writer, Thomas Moore, said: "There is no doubt that some people would spare themselves the expense and trouble of psycho-therapy simply by giving themselves a few minutes each day for quiet reflection. This simple act would provide what is missing in their lives - a period of non-doing that is essential nourishment for the soul." Like Martha, we are very active in our daily lives, dutifully attending to a number of chores that need to be done. But like Mary, we need to give ourselves a break -space and time for quiet reflection, as we do each time we participate in the Eucharist. This is both necessary and important to provide what is essential for every human being - a period of non-doing that is essential nourishment for our souls.
J. Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord Are Spirit, and They Are Life'

My mode of life
Little Joey declared, "Mummy, I want a baby brother." His mother replied, "But you just got one." Joey continued, "But I want another." Mummy explained that it took time to produce a baby, whereupon Joey suggested, "Why don't you do what daddy does?" "What's that?" asked Mummy puzzled. "Put more men on the job." Like Joey, Martha wants one more woman, Mary, in the kitchen. But Jesus answered: "Martha, Martha, you worry about so many things, yet few are needed, indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part; it will not be taken from her." Remember the story of the goose that laid the golden eggs? In his greed to gain profit swiftly, the owner slaughtered the goose to draw out all the eggs at one shot. Alas, too many of us are in a mad rush to do, to reform and transform the world. This can be called the 'Martha mode of life'- active, efficient, seeking quick returns. On the other hand, there is the ‘Mary mode of life' -contemplative, effective, seeking just to be, 'To be with' -What's my mode of life?
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

I need you!
There was this father, who after work would take this long walk with his teenage daughter. He took great pleasure in her company. Suddenly, she began to offer almost daily excuses as to why she could not accompany him. He was hurt but he held his tongue. Finally his birthday arrived. His daughter presented him with a sweater she had knitted. Then he realized that she had done her knitting when he was out of the house for his walk. He said to her, "Martha, Martha, I do appreciate the sweater. But I value your company infinitely more. A sweater I can buy in any store. But you I cannot buy. Please never abandon me again." People need company, a listener. Most of us can identify with Martha; we all have a Martha syndrome. We are all doers. Matter of fact this story is about doers and listeners.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'

 

Discipleship takes many forms
There was once a man who was trying to read the evening newspaper after he had come home from a rough day at the office. As he attempted to read the paper, he was constantly being interrupted by his children. One child came and asked for money for an ice cream cone, and his father gently reached into his pocket and gave him the necessary coin. Another child arrived in tears. Her leg was hurting and she wanted her daddy to kiss the hurt away. An older son came with an Algebra problem, and they eventually arrived at the right answer. Finally, the last and the youngest of them burst into the room looking for good old dad. The father said cynically, "What do you want?" The little youngster said. "Oh Daddy, I don't want anything. I just want to sit in your lap." -Is being present to others another form of service or ministry?
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for all seasons'


****
More Illustrations:

1.     Mommy’s Dinner: 

Once upon a time a mommy had such a wonderful time on her vacation that she decided that on the last weekend she would have a party for the neighbors at their summer place in gratitude for what good friends they had been. She hoped that she could do that every summer. Let’s have pizza her kids said –as kids always say. We can grill some hamburgers, her husband said, that’s easy (which is what he always said). No, said the mommy, we should have a really NICE dinner (which is what she always said).  

The rest of the family groaned to themselves because they knew what that meant – a whole day of hard work for everyone during which the mommy would act like it wasn’t her idea but theirs and now they weren’t helping enough. The rest of the family thought that beef bourgeon was a little much for a summer dinner. There was no reason to clean up the house like it was just before Christmas. If they had to have Caesar salad, couldn’t you make it out of a bag. Was it really necessary to bake potatoes? Wouldn’t potato salad be just as good? Couldn’t you buy the apple pies at the bakery instead of making a half dozen of them? And what was wrong with package pie crust?  

 Well, the party was a feast which everyone enjoyed. They would have enjoyed it a lot more, however, if the mommy wasn’t so worn out that she didn’t have any fun. (Andrew Greeley)
 
2.     Hospitality:  

Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.” (Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister)
--------------------
-Working for God & doing God’s work (Thomas Green, sj)
-Don’t fit God into your schedule, but fit yourself into God’s plans for you.
-------------------
Jesus did not intend to belittle Martha and her activity, but rather to show that hearing the word of God is the foundation of all action, that the word of God must permeate all other concerns. The highest priority must be given to listening to the word. Prayer and actions must be continuous, complementary and mutually dependent. Prayer without action is sterile, and action without prayer is empty. We are expected to be "contemplative in action" because only those who listen carefully to the Word of God know how to behave in the way that God wants, when they show deep concern for the well-being of other people. That is why Jesus reminds Martha that proper service for him is attention to his instruction, not an elaborate provision for his physical needs.

Without the “fuel” of prayer, silence and communion with God, service can become a crushing responsibility, a burden rather than a vocation, an annoyed grumbling, rather than a response to the invitation of God. It is a well-known fact that those who are in the caring professions like doctors, nurses, pastors, social workers and even parents often suffer from burnout and terminal exhaustion as Martha did.

Serve the Lord with Martha’s diligence: Some of mankind's greatest contributions have come from people who decided that no sacrifice was too large and no effort too great to accomplish what they set out to do. Edward Gibbon spent 26 years writing The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Noah Webster worked diligently for 36 years to bring into print the first edition of his Webster’s Dictionary. It is said that the Roman orator Cicero practiced before friends every day for 30 years in order to perfect his public speaking. Most of the famous scientists sacrificed their whole lives on their research for the betterment of human lives. Now let's think about how much energy we put into the Lord's work in an age when people are self-serving, self-centered, and self-indulgent. The comparison can be rather embarrassing.

--------------------------------
3.     We need listening Marthas and serving Marys:

Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world needs such men and women and boys and girls who get the job done. This is certainly true in the church. How would the Church survive if not for the Marthas and Bills who sing in the choir, run the altar guild, work with the homeless, work with the youth, and build the Church? The Church could not exist without the Marthas and Bills, the women and men who are responsible and do the work. The same is true with the family. We need responsible people to do the work in the house: to cook, to clean, to keep the house operating, to pay the bills, to keep the cars running, not to speak of rearing the children and loving the spouse. Households can’t survive without Marthas and Bills. Nor can offices, schools or businesses. There is nothing wrong with being a responsible, action-oriented, get-it-done kind of person. But we must find time to listen to God speaking to us through His word and time to talk to God. Jesus clearly said: be hearers and doers of the word. Jesus never reversed that order. 

******************
4.     The Archbishop of Canterbury with Mental Hospital Inmates

Some years ago, The Archbishop of Canterbury was rushing to catch a train in London. In his haste, he accidentally jumped on the wrong passenger car and found himself on a car full of inmates from a mental hospital. They were all dressed in mental hospital clothing. 

Just as the train pulled out of the station, an orderly came in and began to count the inmates, "1-2-3-4..." when suddenly he saw this distinguished looking gentleman there wearing a business suit and a clerical collar and he said: 

"Who are you?" The answer came back: "I am the Archbishop of Canterbury!" And the orderly said: "5-6-7-8."

The point of that story is this: It is so important to know who we are and who other people are. If we know what makes us tick and what makes other people tick, we get along better. If we understand where we are coming from and where other people are coming from, we relate better. There is more compassion, more empathy and more kindness. When Jesus looked at Martha that day in that emotional scene, he saw some red flags, some warning signals, some danger signs, some destructive attitudes within her which were more harmful to Martha herself than to anyone else. Jesus loved Martha. They were good friends and that day, he saw in her some hurtful attitudes that were working in her like spiritual poisons, petty attitudes, which can devastate and destroy the soul. 

Let's look at these dangerous attitudes which were in Martha. We may find ourselves or someone we know somewhere between the lines. When Jesus looked at Martha that day, he saw deep down inside of her the dangerous attitude. 

1. Resentment
2. Narrowness
3. Unkindness
___________________________
5.     A Gazelle and a Cheetah 

On 10 July 2013 someone posted a YouTube video. Three days later it had 5 million hits.  

The one minute clip shows an amazing life-or-death race. It was shot by some Krueger Park tourists on safari in South Africa. Routinely and sternly, visitors to the park are told to stay in their vehicles at all times. But tourists being tourists, you know the rest of the story. The video shows cars parked along the access road with all their windows and doors wide open, and people hanging out every which way in order to get a better view. 

In this case what everyone was gawking at was a herd of gazelles being chased down by two amazingly speedy cheetahs. Suddenly the whole chase changed course and headed into the roadway. Predator and prey came racing through the line-up of parked cars, then disappeared into the trees on the other side of the road. Moments later one gazelle doubled back - again, running towards the road - with the cheetah pair in hot pursuit.  

Feeling the hot breath of death on its heels, the terrified gazelle made an incredible choice. It hurled itself INTO a Toyota minivan whose side door had been slid open. The confused cheetahs ran on past, looking around for the prey that had been so close only moments before. As the disappointed cheetahs ran off, the owners of the "get-away car" opened the other sliding door and the gazelle did an "exit-stage-left" back out into the wilderness.  

And we think we live with stress!  

"Stress" is one of the greatest contributors to a host of diseases and debilitating maladies suffered by people living in our rapidly rotating world.
_____________________
6.     Don't Forget the Best  

There is an ancient Scottish legend that tells the story of a shepherd boy tending a few straggling sheep on the side of a mountain. One day as he cared for his sheep he saw at his feet a beautiful flower -- one that was more beautiful than any he had ever seen in his life. He knelt down upon his knees and scooped the flower in his hands and held it close to his eyes, drinking in its beauty. As he held the flower close to his face, suddenly he heard a noise and looked up before him. 

There he saw a great stone mountain opening up right before his eyes. And as the sun began to shine on the inside of the mountain, he saw the sprinkling of the beautiful gems and precious metals that it contained.  

With the flower in his hands, he walked inside. Laying the flower down, he began to gather all the gold and silver and precious gems in his arms. Finally with all that his arms could carry, he turned and began to walk out of that great cavern, and suddenly a voice said to him, "Don't forget the best."  

Thinking that perhaps he had overlooked some choice piece of treasure, he turned around again and picked up additional pieces of priceless treasure. And with his arms literally overflowing with wealth, he turned to walk back out of the great mountainous vault. And again the voice said, "Don't forget the best."  

But by this time his arms were filled and he walked on outside, and all of a sudden, the precious metals and stones turned to dust. And he looked around in time to see the great stone mountain closing its doors again. A third time he heard the voice, and this time the voice said, "You forgot the best. For the beautiful flower is the key to the vault of the mountain." 

In our Scripture passage we have someone who also forgot the best. Her name was Martha. 

Adrian Dieleman, Hosts and Guests
__________________________________________
7.     Will the Grass Ever Come Back?   

Erma Bombeck, the author who wrote "If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, What Am I Doing Here In The Pits", tells of two moments in her husband's life: 

There was a time when the children were growing up that her husband used to go and look at the back yard. Surveying the muddy patches where the lawn should be, he would wonder -- Will the grass ever come back? 

And then there was the time when the children were grown and gone that her husband went and looked over the beautiful green lawn, immaculate from lack of use and wondered -- Will the children ever come back? 

Some parts of life are temporary - some are eternal. Wisdom knows the difference. This is the fundamental issue at stake in the story of Mary and Martha.

Richard J. Fairchild, The Better Part
________________________________________
8.     Responding with Humor  

By the way, don't you think Luke also included this incident in his gospel account because he found it irresistible, or perhaps more accurately, because he found a touch of humor in it? There is humor here, isn't there? We smile at the story because we see ourselves in it, or we detect someone we know who is similar to Martha. Sometimes our priorities, or frustrations, are so far off the beam that they are laughable. And along with this was Martha's own lack of humor, which might have finally saved her. "The Lord's coming to my house? You mean he did accept my reckless invitation?" Martha might have asked. "Well, then, he's going to have to settle for potluck!" Such an attitude could have made Martha a relaxed, delightful hostess.  

A friend of mine likes to tell stories about how his teenage children would call him at home on the telephone on Friday nights after the high school basketball games. It was usually about 10 o'clock and they wanted to know whether they could bring a few friends over for a little get together. When the parents asked how many friends were coming, they were usually told, "Oh, about seventeen." Instead of slamming down the phone, the guy said he always smiled at his wife, and the two of them hightailed it over to the supermarket to get enough supplies to feed and water down the two dozen teenagers who showed up. The slight ridiculousness of the situation and the parents' humorous response to it preserved a loving relationship between them and their children. 

Richard W. Patt, All Stirred Up, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
__________________________________
9.     Being Present   

How many of us have been to a party where our host or hosts are so busy with all of the little details that the guests leave the party thinking, "That was a lovely party, but I wish I had more time to speak with our host!" I imagine this Martha from over 2,000 years ago to have something in common with a certain 'Martha' from our present. Fussing over the perfect table setting, the most delicious and perhaps elaborate meal, adjusting every little detail until it is just so...and only when everything is perfectly in place, turning to the guests to enjoy their company. There is a lot of joy to be taken in being a host and doing something gracious your guests, but it should never compromise the time we have to really enjoy our contact with them, especially when it starts to feel like 'work' as Martha clearly expresses. 

I think that one of the things Jesus is praising in Mary's behavior in this text is her careful listening and just being present with her guest and her God. Jesus is telling us that there is great wisdom in letting the dishes soak in the sink so we can listen to and relax with others in fellowship.  

_________________________________
10.  The Highest Priority  

Have you ever been in a hurry and buttoned up a long overcoat with lots of buttons and when you were done, found out that the coat was uneven? What went wrong? I'll tell you what went wrong. When you don't get the first button in the right hole, all the rest are out of sequence too, right?! That's a parable about life. Jesus said it this way in the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Matthew 6:33) If the Lord is not the high priority in your life, then, like the overcoat, so many other things in life will be out of whack as well.  

Arthur E. Dean Windhorn
_______________________
11.  Faithful to my Lord's commands 

I still would choose the better part;
Serve with careful Martha's hands
And loving Mary's heart.  

Charles Wesley
___________________________
12.  ABC Priorities  

A time management guru, a professor in the business school at Harvard, speaks about A, B, and C priorities, and then he notes that too many people spend too much of their time on the C priorities! And then he asks, "Why do you think that is?" The answer is that the C priorities are, first, much easier to accomplish, and, second, give you the impression that you are actually getting something done. In other words you can keep busy with the C priorities all day and never get to the more important things. The lesson from Mary and Martha is "Don't let the good (the C priorities) get in the way of the best (the A priorities). Sound like anyone you know?

David E. Leininger
__________________________________
13.  There Is Always a Load Limit  

Dr. John Anderson tells about a cartoon that appeared in the NEW YORKER magazine. Approaching a small bridge plainly marked, "Load Limit 8 tons" was a truck, also marked on its side, "8 tons." When the 8 ton truck was about in the middle of the bridge with the 8 ton limit, a bluebird lighted on the top girder. At that point the bridge gave way and crashed with the truck into the river below, to the obvious surprise of the bluebird.  

The bridge was built as indicated for 8 tons; the truck weighed exactly that. The bridge could hold up under its load limit, but not under 8 tons and one bluebird.

Of course, this story is wonderfully ridiculous. Most bridges could stand up under their load limit and several thousand bluebirds extra. But, to be sure, all bridges have a breaking point somewhere "that point at which the bluebird would be just much too much. But, friends, it really isn't the bluebird that breaks it down. It is the fact that 8 tons are already present.  

We all have bluebird troubles, don't we? We are all burdened by the facts of our lives which load us to the point of "load limit." We let little things get the best of us, little bluebirds of nothingness, tiny bluebirds of no importance, but just the thing to bring us down. Every person has a limit and we would do well to watch for the warning signs of one bluebird too many. There is always a load limit.  

Arthur E. Dean Windhorn, Sermons.com
________________________________________
14.  Worry  

Worry has been defined as "a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." 

Unknown
__________________
15.  Humor: When Anxieties Finally Come True  

For several years a woman had been having trouble getting to sleep at night because she feared burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he did find a burglar. "Good evening," said the man of the house. "I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting 10 years to meet you."

 William Marshall, Eternity Shut in a Span
__________________
16.  Inviting Us Out to Worship  

There is a chapel somewhere in Wisconsin that has a stained glass window over the entrance, showing the figure of Jesus with open arms. Some, seeing it for the first time, remarked, "How meaningful! He seems to be inviting us in to worship."

"That's true," the pastor said. "He is indeed inviting us in to worship."

When the service was over and the same person was going out the door, he looked up at the window again. There was the figure of Jesus, with the same invitingly open arms. "Look!" he said. "Now he seems to be inviting us out."

"Right," the pastor replied.
***************
17. ‘A simple human thing’:
 
A psychologist ran every morning in a park near her home before going to her office.  She often met a colleague there, a well-known psychiatrist.  Without any formal arrangement, they had run together every morning for many years.  But after she was diagnosed with cancer, somehow her running companion was never there.  A strong and determined woman, she continued to run, despite a difficult course of surgery and chemotherapy.  After a few months of running alone, she called the psychiatrist, but he never returned the call.
About a year after the completion of her treatment, she took a different path on her run one morning and saw the psychiatrist running up ahead.  Being twenty years younger, she caught up with him easily.  As they ran side by side, she told her one-time running companion that she was hurt by his not calling back.  Everyone in their small professional community knew about her cancer.  Surely he had heard.
The psychiatrist replied, “I’m sorry.  I simply did not know what to say.”
What would she have wanted to hear?
“Oh, something like, ‘I heard it’s been a hard year.  How are you doing?’  Some simple human thing like that.”
[From Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]

Too often, we hide behind our credentials, our expertise, our work, our designated role or function in order to avoid the awkwardness of simply being human.  Like the psychiatrist in the story, we can be experts in the science of hurt but find ourselves too afraid to extend the simplest form of healing; like Martha in the Gospel, we bury ourselves in our work and agendas and calendars to avoid loving and being loved by our “guests.”  Jesus invites each one of us to make a place in our lives for the “better part” — for welcoming the joy and love of family and friends that is the very presence of God.

--------------------
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1. "I would like to be married to both of them": 
 
Some single men in a Bible study group were discussing who would make the better wife--Martha or Mary. One fellow said, "Well, I think Martha would make the better wife. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. It sounds like Martha surely knew how to cook. I would love to be married to a woman like that!" Another man said, "I think Mary would make the better wife. She was always so thoughtful, sweet and loving. I could be very happy, married to a woman like Mary!" Finally, another fellow settled the argument when he said, "Well, I would like to be married to both of them. I would like Martha before supper and Mary after supper." Today’s gospel challenges us to combine the listening spirit of Mary with the dynamic spirit of Martha in our Christian lives.

2.  "She can sit all evening at the feet of a friend and not say anything.”
 
The headline on the cover of Sports Illustrated some time back read: "Sportswoman of the Year." One of the pictures on the cover showed Mary Decker pressing the tape as she defeated, by inches, the Soviet champion, Zamira Zaitseva, in the 1500-meter world championship race. The article went on to describe Decker's phenomenal performances in San Diego, Los Angeles, Gateshead (England), Stockholm, Paris, and Oslo. One comment was made about Mary Decker by the writer of the article that is relevant to our discussion today. He wrote, "She can sit all evening at the feet of a friend and not say anything, just smile and let the talk wash over her."[Kenny Moore, "She Runs and We Are Lifted," Sports Illustrated (December 26, 1983), p. 38.] Today’s gospel tells us about another Mary, Mary of Bethany, who did the same thing when Jesus made his last visit to her home.
 
3. Set your priorities:

There is a story about a man who was preparing his favorite breakfast of hot oatmeal when his daughter came rushing in with his little four-year-old grandson. "The babysitter has been delayed," she explained, "and I've got to go to work. Will you keep Bobby for a few hours?" Granddad said, "Sure," and his daughter left. Then Granddad scooped up two bowls of oatmeal. "Do you like sugar?" he asked. When Bobby nodded he asked, "How about some butter, too?" When his grandson nodded again he asked, "How about milk?" "Sure," the boy said. But when the grandfather placed the steaming bowl of oatmeal in front of Bobby, the boy made a face and pushed it away. "But when I asked you, you said you liked sugar, butter and milk," grandfather protested. "Yeah," Bobby answered, "but you didn't ask me if I like oatmeal." Granddad forgot to ask the most elemental question. Sometimes we forget to do that, too. We never set priorities. We never list in our own minds what those things are that matter most. We allow life to buffet us here and there and we never center in on those things that really matter.