July 16, 2016
This week in our first and third readings we hear about special visits. The first reading has divine messengers come by the tent of Abraham and Sarah. These visitors have no names. These visitors seem to possess some special abilities. These visitors do not ask for hospitality but, because Abraham senses something about them, he offers them rest, food and drink. In return, these messengers give Abraham and Sarah the great prophecy that in a year’s time, they will have a son. These messengers bring the best gift any visitor can share. . .. The Good News!!
Our gospel this week also shares a story about a special visitor. Jesus comes to the home of Martha and Mary. While he is not mentioned, it is presumed that Lazarus is also there as they all lived together. Martha is the hostess and seeing to the guest’s needs with food and drink. Mary on the other hand, is just sitting on the floor right next to Jesus and listening intently to everything that Jesus is saying. Mary is fascinated, enthralled, and almost mesmerized in a sort of trance as she seems to be soaking in everything that Jesus is teaching. As the scene unfolds, Martha suggests to Jesus, not so gently that Mary help with the chores of tending to the guests. . .. Jesus response is one that actually might surprise us a little BUT, also must resonate with many of us. . .. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worries about many things. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Unfortunately, that is exactly where our scene, our story ends this week. We can imagine that the immediate response to Jesus saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things,” would be Martha coming back with something like: “WHAT!” Why? Well, in the days of Jesus, when someone like him, Jesus, the Rabbi would come, speak and teach the people who would be invited to listen to him would be the males. Martha and Mary would be relegated to the, “woman’s work.” Martha and Mary were supposed to be doing the cooking and waiting on the guests BUT CERTAINLY NOT engaging in the conversation or even listening. So, when Martha says, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving? Tell her to help me,” Jesus response was totally out of the norm. Women in that day would NOT have been allowed to do any of what Mary was doing. Once again, Jesus is thinking and teaching a new idea. Jesus is breaking a mold of oppression. Education for women in those days was something that was very rare. Mary was in a very privileged position and Martha was not only surprised BUT she must have been angry and jealous too. Sadly, there are STILL women who would feel the same way in too many places around the world.
Are you a Martha or a Mary? Whenever I hear this gospel I always relate much more to Martha. I very often would like to be more like Mary but I can hear Jesus saying to me, “you are anxious and worried about many things.” Martha was and continues to be the perfect example of the one who gets things done and who DOES worry about caring for the company, making sure everyone is comfortable, happy and most certainly properly fed. Mary is the one who is the example of the proverbial student. Mary is the one who truly wants, yearns to, and loves to desires to learn all that Jesus is teaching. In this scene and story, Martha is perceived as the worker and Mary is perceived as the lazy one who wastes her time doing something that she really ought not to be doing. Jesus is the one who sets the tone for the importance of listening to his words. Jesus is setting the example of what we all really need to be doing in trying to understand his teaching. Jesus is trying to get the point across that we really ought not to worry about everyday mundane issues. Jesus is trying to tell us to engage in the study of what he has and continues to teach to ALL people. We do NOT hear what Jesus is saying. All we hear, see and imagine is THAT he is teaching and to whom. Jesus is teaching to EVERYONE who will listen. Jesus even wants to teach the women!! What a GRACE.
May God bless us all today and always!!