17 July 2010


16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:38-42

In the ways of the world, doers, not dreamers, usually get the loudest applause. Dreams are good, but deeds are better. Last Sunday, Jesus narrated the beautiful story of an unforgettable doer: the Good Samaritan. This Sunday, Jesus gives us a person whose conduct is patterned after his: Martha. As the Samaritan helped the wounded Jew so does Martha attends to the needs of the travel-weary Jesus.

But Jesus is no hold-up victim lying along the roadside, left by his attackers almost half-dead, as the Jew in last Sunday’s parable was. Jesus requires no nursing care. All that He needs is a place to stop and refresh Himself. Knowing that his friends – Martha, Mary, and Lazarus – live nearby, Jesus is delighted to quietly retire into their home even for some hours. Constantly surrounded by a crowd, creating a fuss is the last thing Jesus wants now.

I remember many instances in my life when, tired or lonesome, all I wanted was a quiet, warm talk with friends, but the same friends simply missed the point of my visit because they were busy attending to the menu. Many times, as a priest, I would experience left alone sitting in one corner of the house while my hosts have their hands full with the formalities of hospitality. I wanted to be present to them but they were simply not present to me even as we were already under one roof. This is what Jesus also has to endure as He visits Martha and Mary. The sisters are both busy: one with the dithering and din of superfluous hospitality; the other with the simplicity and peace of intent listening. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening, for no man ever spoke as this prophet does, while Martha moves around amidst the fumes of cooking and the clatter of pots and pans until she finds a voice for her feelings. Martha blurts out, “Lord, do You not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.” Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”

Jesus does not reprimand Martha. The issue at hand is not who between the two sisters is morally better. Jesus, however, implies that Mary is wiser than Martha for choosing “the better part”. For all her good intentions, Martha however was wasting the chance of a lifetime. Jesus has not come to her home for the meal she is cooking or the bed she is making. Jesus comes to the house of His friends, not to a restaurant or a hotel. He comes to be with Martha and Mary. He comes for them. Apparently, Martha has missed the point. Hopefully, we don’t.

Missing the point is a common failing for many of us. The Marthas among us are many. Take for example, a common happening in church weddings. When attending a church weddings, we should approach it with awe, joy, and prayer. How many of us are really awed at the grace of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony rather than at the beauty of the bride or the lack of it? Is everyone joyful for the love of the newlyweds or for seeing long lost friends and relatives? Is prayer really the main agendum both for the couple and their guests? If it is, then arriving on time for the nuptial Mass should show that. The Christian marriage is a sacrament. It is not a fashion show, neither a reunion nor an optional socialization.

There can be more examples for us missing the point: liturgists enslaved by rubrics but indifferent to the needs of genuine fellowship; churchgoers whose interest is in what the other churchgoers are wearing rather than in what the Word of God is saying; parents who worry about their children’s failing mark on their quizzes but are not alarmed about their failure to receive the sacraments on time; husbands and fathers who practically are killing themselves in the work they do for a pay greater than the usual but paying little, if no attention at all, to their spouses’ and children’s emotional needs; leaders – yes, including church leaders – who are workaholic and complain about having little time, if none at all, for renewal. When you go to a wake, do you catch your self usually with a comment on the make-up and over-all appearance of the dead inside the coffin? If so, then you miss the point of going to a wake. We go a wake to pray for the dead, not to judge a beauty pageant. The list is long because not only are there many Marthas among us; there is also a Martha in each of us.

The grace of this Sunday’s liturgy is to remind us of that truth: there is a Martha in each of us. The Lord may well be asking you and me: “Kamusta na si Martha sa iyo?” (“How is Martha in you?”). And if she is already breaking down, fretting, complaining, crying, throwing into tantrums, or even just on the verge of falling into any of these unwanted, destructive situations, Jesus is telling us: “You know who has the better part.” We recall that Mary has chosen the better part, and we will do better if we choose the same. For just as there is a Martha in each of us, so is there a Mary in all of us.

The things we do for the Lord are good and important. He sincerely appreciates them. But, as exemplified in the first reading today, what the Lord wants to do for us is far more significant and life-changing. Let us quietly place our selves at His disposal. Can we be present not only for the Lord, but, more importantly, to the Lord? Can we just sit, like Mary, at His feet, gazing at and listening to Him, with a few words of our won thrown in? Can we really be lovers of the Lord whose affection for Him is so deep and true that words are not enough so that silent presence now becomes our greatest gift to Him?

In the second reading today, St. Paul the Apostle talks about sharing in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of Christ’s Body, the Church. We cannot partake of the sufferings of the Lord if all we do is work for the Lord. We must let the Lord work in us – not even “through” us. He must work in us first before He can work through us, and when He is already working through us that is only the time when we truly work for Him. This is a profound lesson we always need to be reminded about as we follow the Lord. Remember, we follow the Lord; we do not entertain Him.

May we never miss the point. May we always choose the better part. And that part is at the feet of Jesus. Where else for us who call Him “Lord”?


At 8:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lord Jesus, give us the gift of being a good listener, a good listener to Your teachings.

There is always an amazing feeling of encounter that when I talked to You about anything and evertyhing, You always answer me right away.
Thank You Lord, for helping me conquer my anxieties and fears.
Thank You for teaching me how to surrender everything and leave up it up to You.

Thank you too Fr. Bobby for posting
your true to life and very down to earth Homily everytime, it is really very inspiring.:).

A lot of people fail to understand the difference. it could sound the same but actually not.


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