From the desk of Father Flores
In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear about the friendship between Jesus and the family at Bethany - Martha, Mary and Lazarus – which is beautifully described in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, in the story of the raising of Lazarus. It is a household where Jesus is warmly, even intimately, welcomed as he should be in all our homes. However, this is less evident in today's Gospel from Luke, which speaks rather of the tension in the household, as a result of the unfair division of labor between the two sisters. All of us, I’m sure, can recognize this scenario!
Nonetheless, it is important not to lose sight of the most significant aspect in this story, which is the attitude taken by Mary, sitting attentively at the feet of Jesus listening to what he was saying. As a true disciple, Mary recognizes that Jesus has far more to offer her in terms of spiritual nourishment than she or Martha can offer him in corporal nourishment. This story reminds us that we are called to find balance between our daily service/labor and moments of serious attentiveness to God. Both the active and contemplative dimensions of Christian life are necessary. Remember that we are mind, body and soul. Finding balance in those three aspects is what makes us human.
It is easy to be distracted and fragmented when many things call for attention - even what is good can lose its luster if we forget what busyness is about. Martha seems to have been distracted by the many things she had to do; she forgot who she was doing them for!
Now, Jesus may seem to be preferring contemplation to action, praising Mary and criticizing Martha. Yet, he cannot be telling us to be content with sitting down to listen to his word, for he always insists that true listening to his word means putting it into practice. His objection to Martha is that she is too worried and distracted by many things to be able to really listen to him. Are we the same way? Are we so distracted by the “many” things in our lives that we’ve lost the ability to stop and listen to our Lord, who is constantly wanting to speak to us? Are we truly that “busy”?
Busy people can miss out by not taking time for recreation. Do we ever find that we can be caught up in many events in our lives and that we’re missing out on the deeper things? Jesus today reminds us that to spend some time listening to his word, which is the one thing that is necessary to help put our lives into proper perspective and balance.
This is not the only time that Jesus calls his dis-ciples away from their work to ‘rest a while’ with him. Good news indeed! For him discipleship is top priority. Work is of course necessary. But keeping busy can become a preoccupation in itself and can shield us from meeting the Lord and saying, ‘I have no time to pray!’
Today we are all called to sit at Jesus’ feet, ready to receive his word into our hearts. The person of Martha is strong and familiar to many of us– there are so many practical things to be done, so many other ways in which I might spend my time. However, the Lord wants each of us to bring to the center of our attention not what Jesus is asking me to do but, think instead, of who Jesus asks me to become: a loving, caring, forgiving person, formed in God’s image. That is the “better part” and that “will not be taken away from us.”