• 16th Sunday Ordinary time “C”

    Posted on July 22, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    (A similar problem occurs in the life of the Jerusalem community, when

    the Twelve find themselves unable to cope with the demands of an

    expanding and increasingly diversified community.  Overwhelmed by

    service at tables, they must expand the community’s leadership structure

    in order to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. )

    (Acts 6:l-6)


    This narrative contains a surprising twist.  Instead of praising the

    hospitality of Martha (confer the story of the woman at the Pharisee’s

    house who is praised for the hospitality that she gave to Jesus 7:44-46)

    Jesus praises the inactivity of Mary.


         While for modern readers “sitting at his feet” may evoke only rapt

    attention to Jesus, it is also a technical term for discipleship (see

    Acts 22:3, where Paul sits at the feet of Gamaliel).  “Listening to the

    word” is also an important Lukan motif.  Luke acknowledges his debt to

    the “ministers of the word” who have preserved early Christian

    traditions (Luke l:2); his version of the allegory of the seeds

    stresses the need to hold the word fast in an honest and good heart

    (8:l5; cfr. Mark 4:20); in Acts, hearing the word is a prerequisite to

    conversion and faith (2:f22; 4:4); and the Seven are chosen so that the

    Twelve can dedicate themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer

    (Acts 6:4).  Mary is thus pictured as a disciple who during Jesus’

    ministry embodies that response which is to characterize the nascent

    church.   In contrast to Mary’s silent sitting, Martha is “distracted

    with much serving”.  She then “goes” to Jesus (the Greek verb has

    overtones of “confront”) and says, “Do you not care that my sister has

    left me to serve alone?” (v. 40).  At this point, having just been given,

    in the Samaritan, an example of active concern for another, readers might

    expect Jesus to urge Mary to help her sister.  The answer comes as a

    surprise.  Jesus first describes Martha as “anxious and troubled about

    many things.”  Anxiety is one of the things that inhibits the growth of

    the word (Luke 8:l4); in other NT passages it almost always has a

    negative connotation, suggesting a lack of trust in God’s power or

    presence (Matt. 6:25-34: Luke 12:11,22,25).  Jesus then adds that “Mary

    has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” 

    Jesus thus seems to rebuke Martha’s anxiety and defends Mary’s


        Fr. Richard Rohr is a very popular spiritual director.  He is the founder

    of the Center for Action and ‘Contemplation.  Applying this Gospel to

    ourselves calls us to examine our living.  Is Martha’s anxiety present in me?

    Is Mary’s inactivity (sitting at the feet of Jesus to hear the word) part of the

    rhythm of my life?

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