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The better part

On the Gospel of Luke (10:38-42)

The Gospel for this 16th Sunday of ordinary time presents us with the story of the visit of Jesus to the home of the sisters Martha and Mary. Martha is a kind and caring host who, we are told, welcomes Jesus into her home. She then gets herself into a frenzy of activity preparing everything for the Lord. By contrast, Martha’s sister Mary sits at the Lords feet, savouring his presence among them and listening attentively to what he has to say. Is it any wonder that Martha complains bitterly to the Lord about the apparent inactivity of her sister? “Please tell her to help me”, Martha demand of Jesus. In response Jesus gently tells Martha not to fret over so many things. Instead be like Mary who has chosen the better part. That’s all very well we might ask. But such an attitude will not prepare the food or get the house clean and indeed there is truth in this. But perhaps it would be better to say that if we did this all the time then nothing would get done. But that is not what Jesus is saying to Martha and to us.


Just a few verses before this passage in Lukes Gospel, Jesus sends out seventy two disciples to preach the Good News of the Kingdom to Isreal and to heal all those who are ill. Right after the passage for this Sunday, we find Jesus off praying and then teaching his disciples to pray. What links these passages with the lesson of today’s Gospel seems to me to be simple. So many people today search for the spiritual and seek answers to the big questions about life and its meaning, about God and suffering etc. Yet very few ever just stop and take the time apart in silence and peace to listen to the Lord speak to their hearts. We are constantly bomdared with advertising and media filling our minds with what others what us to think and do. But if we are to make any sense of our relationship with God, if we are to have anything meaningful to say about this relationship to others who are so much in need of God, then we must simply spend time with the Lord in silence, in attentiveness and in openness of heart. In these moments, when we calm ourselves from the frenzy of our daily activity and truly begin to see what has been going on in our lives and where God is speaking to us in all that happens to us, can we begin to pray with depth and sincerity to the God who knows and loves us beyond words. Only then can we begin to hear what the Holy Spirit is whispering to us. Times of silence with the Lord are essential to the Christian life. There is a time for work and for recreation, and these indeed are very important. But if the balance of our daily lives does not also have time for silent prayer and meditation with the Lord then we will quickly ourselves running on empty spiritually.

It is in being with the Lord in silence and openness of heart that He speaks to us best. The prophet Elijah discovered this when he went up to Mount Horeb to speak to the Lord. Standing on the mount, a great wind rent the mountain but the Lord was not in the wind. Then came an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake. The came a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. But after the fire came a still, small voice. When he heard it Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle, for he knew it was the Lord. From our baptism, the Lord dwells deep within for we are His. We are His temple and He is the very ground of our being. It is too easy for us to drown out the voice of the Lord speaking to our hearts with endless activity, work, music, entertainment and noise. The Lord is ever gentle and will not force us to listen. But each day He calls us to spend some time just with Him, at Mass, or before the Blessed Sacrament, prayerfully reading the Sacred Scriptures, pondering with Mary in the rosary, the ways are many. These are the times when we let ourselves and the Lord know the He is our priority. It is in these moment that we can begin to make sense of our lives in the light of the love of Christ and it is then that we can allow the Lord to speak to us, to guide us and to heal us on our journey of faith. Let us be like Mary in today’s Gospel and like her great namesake Mary, Mother of God, and choose the better part each day to spend time exclusively with Jesus. Let me just end with some words from 14th century German Dominican mystic, Johann Tauler. “There are some who say in their blindness: “God does not touch or inspire me as he does other persons.” God touches and moves, warns and desires all people equally, and he wants one quite as much as another. The inequality lies in the way in which his touch, his warnings, and his gifts are received. Often it happens that when God comes to us with his touches and his gifts, he finds the soul occupied. Other guests are there, and he has to turn away”.


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