SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
The readings from this reflection: Gn 18:1-10a; Ps 15:2-3, 3-4,5; Col. 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42
So much food to cook!
And the house to cleanse!
It wouldn’t have been so bad,
But the Lord brought 12 friends!
Martha worked so hard,
Close to coronary,
Please, I need some help.
Where’s that lazy Mary?
She finally found her.
Well, don’t that beat!
She’s all stretched out at Jesus’ feet.
“Jesus, I’m working hard,”
Martha began to wail.
“Mary, she’s just lounging.
Tell her to get off her tail!”
“Martha,” Jesus said,
“I admire your heart.
But leave Mary be.
She chose the better part.”
Some of us are more like Martha while others lean toward Mary. My father is a “Martha.” I don’t think he would be ashamed of me saying that. He was never one to sit around, but he sure knew how to work. Dad was a carpenter. His daily prayer was a swing of the hammer. Under a burning sun or in freezing temperatures, day after day, year after year he swung a hammer. And each swing of the hammer was a prayer, a father’s prayer that those he loved would have the food they needed and a home to go home to.
I was more of a Mary. It would drive him crazy. I am married to a Martha. It makes her crazy, too. If you are a Martha, I’ll bet we Marys drive you nuts.
Look at the Gospel. Jesus shows up with the whole crew. Martha has to scramble to take care of the surprise guests. She’s the Martha Stewart of Bethany. What in the world is she going to feed everybody? Where is the extra leaf for the dining room table? The good dishes need to be unpacked. Maybe Lazarus can run to the market if she could get a list together. And where is Mary? There she is, sitting down at Jesus’ feet listening to stories! You can’t hardly blame Martha for getting upset.
“Jesus, don’t you care that I’m doing all the work while my sister lollygags around listening to you?”
I’ll bet she really loved Jesus’ reply.
“Calm down Martha. You’re worried too much about things that don’t really matter. Mary knows what is really important and she can sit here as long as she likes.”
Maybe Martha settled down and relaxed, but personally I think she probably blew a gasket.
If you look closely at the first reading, you can spot another Mary type – Abraham. Abraham asks his visitors if he can bring them some food. He then goes to Sarah and says, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.” After that Abraham picks out a steer, Scripture says he “gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.”
I think Martha would have had a problem with Abraham. But Mary wouldn’t have. Like Mary, Abraham recognized who his visitor was. He knew he was in the presence of the Lord. He wanted to hear the message. When Sarah heard the message that she would have a son in the next year, she laughed. After all, Abraham was 99 years old and she was 98! Abraham may have had his faults, but he had faith.
I can see him standing in the cool desert air one night, staring up at the stars. Sarah calls, “Abraham, get in the tent. You’ll catch pneumonia out there. What are you doing?”
“Counting the stars,” Abraham replies. “Someday, our offspring will be even more numerous. God promised.” Practical Sarah probably shakes her head, and if you listen closely, you can hear a laugh coming from the tent.
We need the Martha, the Sarah, in us to get things done. But, we need the Mary, the Abraham, to make sure we do the right things. St. Gregory the Great compared Martha and Mary to two sides of our spiritual life. Martha is the active life that honors Christ through her work. Mary is the contemplative dimension that sits at Jesus’ feet and listens. St. Gregory states that both are important, but the contemplative is greater since, in the end, that is what will endure. While things pass away, love continues.
Abraham knew this as he sat under a tree at the Lord’s feet. Mary knew this as she sat at Jesus’ feet. Another Mary also knew it. She listened at the feet of Jesus as he hung upon the cross. She heard Him forgive those who were executing Him. She would have heard the hammer as it pounded the nails into those feet. And, for the carpenter on the cross, each swing of the hammer was a prayer, a prayer that those he loved would have the food they needed and a home to go home to. And we do. We have the Eucharist for food and he has prepared a home for us in heaven.
Deacon Rob Huff serves the diocese as Chancellor and Superintendent of Catholic Schools. He ministers in St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Cape Girardeau.