Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
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?”
This morning I had some additional thoughts to today’s Gospel passage. I thought I would I write them down and share them with you.
Jealous for attention. Was Martha just a little jealous for some attention? Did she stab her sister in the back so that she could get some recognition? I don’t know about you, but I do get a little annoyed when I’m doing a lot of work and no one seems to notice!
I think Martha may have been seeking some sort of recognition. But the Lord did not offer it to her. There may have been a reason for it.
Comfortable in what we know. When I read this Gospel passage, I was reminded of some very unfortunate people I had met; people who were stuck in their old ways. You may be surprised who they are. They are the so-called “open-minded.” But they are not. If anything, they are very “one-sided.” They reject the teachings of the Church simply because they are the teachings of the Church. They reject all religions because they have rejected the reality of God. They claim to have studied their faith “inside out” before rejecting their faith. But the problem with this assertion is that they never really learned their faith, or if they did, they learned it as children, and with the mind of a child, and never bothered to look back at it as adults, and with the mind of an adult.
Martha was serving while Mary was listening. Maybe Martha thought to herself, “I know all of this stuff. I learned it in CJD (Confraternity of Jewish Doctrine). My mom used to read the bible to me. I used to serve as an alter girl. I learned it while I attended private Jewish school!”
I remember a young man who came to me, at the insistence of his father, to talk to me about Catholicism. He had “grown up” Catholic, but while he was in College he left the Catholic faith. I asked him what led him to do such a thing. “Well, I disagree with the teachings of the Church.”
“Which ones?” I replied…“Love your enemies? Do good to those who harm you? Forgive seven times seventy times?”
“Oh no, not those,” he said. And then he proceeded to list his one complaint.
“Really,” I replied, “and what articles or books did you read from Catholics to help explain the Church’s position on that issue?”
“Oh, I see. How quickly your passion for the truth ended.”
He learned his faith as a child, but he never learned it as an adult. Now that’s one-sided; or better yet, lopsided. He reminds me of Martha.
Martha felt comfortable in what she had learned as a child, but she never bothered to cross-examine it with the teachings of Christ. She was content in what she knew. A lot of people are like Martha. But there is a big difference in knowing something (or someone) and knowing something (or someone) well. Most closed minded people don’t seem to get that.
This is what I love about some people who disagree with me. They think I don’t know what they believe in. They think their arguments are air proof. Of course they are, if you don’t let any fresh air in!
Mary was open to learning more about the same things she learned as a child. This isn’t an easy thing to do. It requires a passion for the truth and a willingness to experience some uneasiness and discomfort in search of it. When we study our faith as religiously as studying those who attack it, we may find ourselves going back to where we never intended to return: to God.
Not only was this young man ignorant of his faith, but he never knew that his “new” ideas were actually recycled materials from the past.
As I priest, I have run into a fair number of these people. They tend to get up and to leave when people begin to disagree with them; they tend to walk out during sermons when they don’t want to hear something; they tend to defend themselves by labeling others as extremists or fundamentalists. But in reality, it is simply a cover for having no arguments at all. None whatsoever.
Let’s learn from Mary. Let’s listen to the Lord through prayer and Scripture; from those who have gone before us; and even from those who attack us.
What does it take? A sincere passion for the truth.