C Cycle -16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
Did you ever have a boss, or a teacher, or a parent you could not satisfy? It is a frustrating experience. If they verbally chastise you in public it is humiliating and it ignores all you have done to satisfy them and help them is unknown. It hurts and its impact is to make you feel you are not good enough. The chastisement causes you to compare yourself with the one you know has their approval: a sibling, a co-worker, or another student. I cannot tell you how many times in counselling I have heard stories from someone who was always compared to a sibling who made just as many mistakes but never received the same punishment. Martha had to feel the comparison with her sister Mary was unfair. Was sitting at the feet of Jesus while she did all the work to make it possible for her to sit there justified? What is the standard to know God approves of our actions?
Are those who sit in an adoration chapel receiving the approval of Jesus over someone who spends all their time in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless? Is Jesus telling us to choose contemplation over being active in service? I do not think so and if we begin to think Martha is being chastised for taking care of the necessary chore of hospitality, then we are not paying attention to the gospel. Abraham in the first reading today was just as busy as Martha as he was ensuring those visiting him were offered hospitality. Martha’s problem was not her busyness but how she was inattentive to the words of Christ as he spoke to all those gathered.
Where are our minds when we are listening to the words of the scriptures as they are being proclaimed to us? Where are our minds as the Words of the Gospel are made relevant to our lives by those who preach? Are our minds focused on what we will be doing as soon as mass is over? Christ is telling us we do have a problem with busyness. Society has demanded an increase in our involvement in our children’s ball games, music or gymnastic lessons, travel leagues. At the same time. We are guilty of encouraging those activities and then engaging in our own needs for recreation, fellowship, and for entertainment. .
How many times have we heard someone say, I just do not get anything out of going to church anymore? That is where Martha was that day, getting nothing out of her being in the presence of Christ or from her service for him. Jesus is telling us frankly and directly he does not want us engaging in service without first engaging in listening to the him. Just last evening, I had a meeting with the men of my parish as we are planning events for the men of our Parish to capture their hearts for Christ. We began with a meditation on the gospel of Mark chapter 5, where Jesus frees a man from a “legion” of demons.
This is a departure from our usual dive in and get the work done style of meeting. Yes, it was a strange gospel story to use for a meditation as we prepared to do something to help men encounter Jesus. But it was something I heard in prayer and without trying to figure out why that passage would help them, I presented it to the men. After the gospel was read, we had a period of reflection and then turned our attention to two things that occurred in that gospel.
One was the reaction of the people of the town as they looked upon this man who is now freed from his torment as he sat there clean and presentable. The scriptures tell us they were frightened and wanted Jesus gone from their town. They were not in awe but in fear; not rejoicing but rejecting. The second thing we focused on was how this man, freed from demons, wanted to now follow Jesus but Jesus tells him no. Instead, Jesus told him to go to his own town and proclaim the kingdom of God.
No, I am not going to tell you what they discussed but their insights were profound and very insightful.
You are wondering why I wouldn’t I tell you what they discussed, and the answer is simple – they took the time to listen to the words of Jesus and came away with something for everyone at that meeting. It is no wonder our pastor is encouraging us to begin all our meetings with meditations and reflective prayers instead of a nod to God and then move on to the business at hand. We are too busy, and that busyness is keeping us from hearing what God wants to tell us and how we should be serving the people of God.
As we pray each Sunday when we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say “thy will be done so it is time we paid attention to God’s will. That my brothers and sisters is why we need to sit at the feet of Jesus. Without doing that we all are Martha’s doing what we think he would have us do and because we are Martha’s we deserve to be told we are doing our will not his.