Year C: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 10: 38-42
There are many ways of making people welcome - and today we meet two women who welcomed Jesus to their home in very different ways.
Martha welcomes Him by offering hospitality - good food - good wine and a comfortable place to stay.
Her sister Mary welcomes Him by sitting with Him and listening to all that He has to say.
As is so often the case, different ways of doing things leads to annoyance and argument. Martha is so preoccupied with organising the meal that she forgets her role as friend and listener. Mary is so preoccupied with her role as friend and listener that she forgets that Jesus might need something to eat!
They must have known Jesus well for Martha has no qualms about telling Jesus off for encouraging Mary to sit around and listen rather than helping. Jesus does not take offence - but reminds her that there is a difference in making someone welcome - and getting into a fuss and frazzle about it. Mary, He says, has chosen the better part - where better than at the feet of her Lord, listening to His words?
This, in fact, would have been quite radical at the time. The women would have been expected to prepare the meals and serve them They would not have expected to be part of any discussion - let alone being praised for being there.
Luke is highlighting the fact that Jesus takes women seriously - His words are for them too. Their role is not to win salvation solely by looking after home and family or - but also by listening to His words and acting on them.
This short conversation has been used to suggest that the vocation to a contemplative life of prayer and study is somehow better than living in the world. This is a shame - and is probably not what Jesus was getting at.
He is not telling Martha off for preparing a meal for Him - He had a reputation for enjoying good hospitality! He is, in fact, urging her to keep it in proportion - to balance the role of food-preparer with that of friend and listener. He does not want her rushing around preparing food - He wants her with Him. All the things that she worries about will sort themselves out - His time with her is short enough - why waste it?
What does it mean for me?
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