I don’t know how many of you discuss the readings with your spouse or some other significant person in your life, but most weeks Mary and I do. Often times we each get something different from our reading of the passages, but we can usually see the other’s point of view. Today’s Gospel passage however, the story of Martha and Mary, is one passage where we struggle with seeing each other’s point of view.
Every time we discuss this passage Mary, my wife, says to me…”If Mary (in the story) would just go help Martha they would get the work done in half the time and they could both sit and listen to Jesus.”
I see it differently. I see Martha worrying about trivial things and missing an opportunity to listen to and learn from Jesus himself.
Now I suppose a major part of the difference in how Mary and I see the actions of Martha and Mary is this passage is a result of the roles we each play in life.
Mary my wife, is the planner, the preparer, the one who wants to be sure the house is something of a show place before the first guest arrives. She is the one who needs to be sure there is enough food for the party…(apparently it’s way better to have left-overs for a month rather than risk running out of something).
I, on the other hand, although ready and willing to help prepare for the party, take more of the “the guests aren’t coming to do a ‘white glove inspection’ of our house” approach. Yes, everything needs to be clean and the food needs to be prepared, but sometimes there are more important things in life. I believe that we should be relaxed and ready to enjoy the company of our guests when they arrive.
I promise you this difference has resulted in some tense conversations over the past 30 years.
But I’m sure if you’ve been with your spouse, or some other significant person for more than a few years you have some areas in your life where you have very different opinions that sometimes create some tension between you.
Now please don’t think I’m saying that being a good host or hostess isn’t important, it is. What I am saying is that although sometimes we are faced with making a choice between two bad choices (you know the lesser of two evils), sometimes we’re are faced with choosing between two good options. I think the Gospel is telling us is that we have to look at the options and make the decision that will benefit us most in our lives.
As I look at these passages, especially the first reading from Genesis and the Gospel I see stories of hospitality. Stories of being good to everyone who comes to your door, and these are important things. But at the same time I see, especially in the Gospel, a message that says the opportunity to listen to Jesus is more important because he gives us the model to live by.
Sure, Martha is frustrated because Mary sits and listens to Jesus while she does all the work. But did you ever wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to Jesus?
That is the invitation to each of us in today’s readings: stop your busyness, be still, and listen!
All three readings today bring us back to God and the incredibly wonderful ways in which God is present in our normal everyday lives.
* Sometimes God comes as stranger
* Sometimes God comes as guest
* And sometimes God comes in our suffering
Let us be attentive to how and when God comes to each of us. Only then will we know whether He is calling us to be still and listen, or to put the words that He has taught into action.