Mary and Martha

No doubt, ahem, if you went to Mass this past weekend, you heard a homily on the very powerful Gospel that was proclaimed–the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. In the gospel, Martha complains to Jesus that Mary basically is doing nothing and leaving all the work to her–something evidently we all feel is our lot in the world (although I’ve known a ton of “Mary’s”, I’ve never heard of anyone who actually relates to her in this gospel passage). Which is why, I predict that you heard preached, something that is nowhere to be found in the gospel you heard–a defense of Martha.

Now what makes the Good News (the meaning of the word “gospel”), good news is that it is the message from the king (as Pope Benedict so eloquently brings out in his Jesus of Nazareth), yet when we hear the good news, I find that we almost always want to explain it away, rather than deal with the message being proclaimed. Martha is one of the best examples of this in the Gospels.

She raises her “works” issue with Jesus against the contemplative (listening to what Jesus is saying) Mary and she is essentially rebuked for it–with no apologies. So what are we to take from this?

That when it comes right down to it there is only one thing necessary. We clutter our lives with all kinds of activities that we think our necessary, but in fact as Jesus points out to Martha there is only one think necessary–to listen to God. Now What do you think Martha did when she heard this? Better, what do you do when you hear it?

Evidently when most of us hear it, we think it unjust and immediately go into defending Martha rather than imitating Mary and listening to Jesus–the “one thing necessary.” In other words we reject the good news–the invitation to the kingdom and go back to our own little kingdoms where we rule and will our own lives. But such a rejection does not lead to eternal life.

It is ironic that this message of “listening to Jesus” above everything else is so soundly rejected in modern preaching. If I were to presume to guess what Martha’s reaction to Jesus’ word was–I would presume that she sat down and imitated Mary at that moment, because she knew the Lord loved her and if he was telling her this was what was really necessary, then she had better pay attention.

Hopefully that is what you and I will do also.

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