NECESSARY AND URGENT
While the disciples continue on their journey, Jesus alone enters a village and heads to a house where he finds two sisters he dearly loves. The presence of their friend Jesus is going to provoke two very different reactions in these women.
Mary, surely the younger sister, drops everything and sits beside the Lord at his feet. Her only concern is to listen to him. The Gospel writer describes her with the traits that characterize the true disciple. She is at the feet of the Master, attentive to his voice, welcoming his Word and nourishing herself with his teaching.
Martha’s reaction is different. From the moment of Jesus’ arrival, all she does is go out of her way to give him due welcome and attention. Luke describes her as someone burdened with all she has to do. Overwhelmed by the situation and resentful of her sister, she lays bare her complaint to Jesus: Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.
Jesus stays calm. He answers Martha with great tenderness, slowly repeating her name. He then then lets her see that he too is concerned about her burden, but she should know that listening to him is so essential and necessary that no disciple should be left without his Word: Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her.
Jesus does not criticize Martha’s service. How could he do so if he himself is teaching everyone by his example to live life welcoming, serving and helping others? What he criticizes is her way of working so anxiously, under the pressure of too many things to do.
Jesus does not pit the active life against the contemplative life, nor the faithful listening of his Word against the commitment to adopt his life-style of self-giving to others. Rather, he draws attention to the danger of being absorbed in excessive activity, in constant inner turmoil, stifling the Spirit within us, spreading anxiety and anguish rather than peace and love.
Pressured because of our diminishing strength, we are getting used to asking the more generous Christians for all kinds of commitments both inside and outside the Church. If, at the same time, we do not offer them space and time to get to know Jesus, listen to his Word and feed on his Gospel, we run the risk of letting restlessness and anxiety, rather than his Spirit and his peace, grow in the Church. We may well find communities led by burnt-out functionaries, but not by witnesses who radiate their Master’s spirit and life.
July 17, 2016
16 Sunday in O.T. (C)
Luke 10, 38-42