Last Sunday our gospel scripture showed us Christian life as a life of active care. To balance this story of action Luke presents us today with the story of a woman simply listening to Jesus.
Jesus comes to visit friends Martha and Mary – one looks after him with a helping hand – the other sits with him with a listening ear.
Today’s gospel gives us a homely story of two sisters who warmly welcome Jesus as they seek to open their hearts to his presence so that they may hear the word that he speaks.
We all need friends, we are social animals. Jesus was no exception; Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus were part of his circle of friends. We all value the warmth and comfort of friends. We love to listen to friends and waste time with them. We love to share food and drink and hospitality with those we are close to.
The gospel today takes us to the family home of Jesus’ friends. Tradition tells us that this family was well known to him. This was a place where he could visit, and share his life with those who he was close to. He was welcome there; his hosts shared with him their table, their love and affection. This may have been a place where Jesus could rest from demands of ministry, may be it was a refuge for silence in the midst of a busy life.
There are two reactions to Martha and Mary as they offer hospitality to Jesus. Martha wants everything perfect, she prepares the meal, she wants the best for her friend.
Mary does little, she sits at the visitor’s feet enjoying his company and listening to his words.
Martha expresses her annoyance at Mary. For Martha, Mary should be doing something more for their friend than simply sitting and listening.
At this point Jesus guides the encounter. He challenges all of the busy activity of Martha. Martha is missing the opportunity of the moment, the one thing “necessary”, and that is to listen to the word that he speaks.
Our world is a busy place; our homes, our work places, even our places of worship can be busy. Life has to be attended to. The gospel is not downing life in action- but it does call and challenge us to reflect on which activity is necessary – and that which is not. The danger of being busy with many things and always on the go means that we often miss the joys of life.
Mary is telling us that it’s a good thing to sit and be present with the Lord without doing or saying anything.
We all need to find the BALANCE between our many activities and our need for silence and reflection.
Both are essential for healthy living. The challenge is to integrate both into our everyday lives.
Monsignor Paul Farmer