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16th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Listening to Jesus


“Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken
from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).
 
It would appear that Jesus is castigating Martha for her acts of hospitality and praising Mary for the better portion she had chosen. The Martha in us screams, “unfair!” What is going on in this familiar story from Luke’s Gospel?
 
It is unlikely that Jesus was devaluing the very important biblical principle of hospitality. Hospitality was a sacred act and a crucial responsibility for every believer. Divine hospitality was a metaphor used to describe God’s protection and care. To offer hospitality to another was tantamount to offering it to God.
 
In remarks recorded in the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus insisted that his audience’s response to God be rooted in concrete action. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus challenged Martha’s orientation toward “doing” and praised Mary’s posture of “being.” Jesus was inviting disciples to step out of their normal role and to look at things from a new perspective and encounter the God of surprise. Whenever disciples stretch themselves, move into uncharted waters and listen to God anew, they invite transformation in every area of their lives. Those naturally drawn to a ministry of service need to spend time in prayer and contemplation, and those drawn to contemplation need to ground their prayer in action. One feeds the other.
 
Today’s Gospel reminds us that the greatest action one can perform is to love the Lord with one’s entire being. Jesus invites us to step outside the routine of our lives, even the admirable routine, and abide with him. Our service will not last if not rooted in the contemplation of God’s word.
 
– Which of the “doing” or “being” aspects of your life needs to be stronger?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store.

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