• 16th Sunday Ordinary time “C”

    Posted on July 18, 2016 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    walter#2, 1/3/70, 12:35 PM,  8C, 7704x10771 (838+606), 150%, paintings,  1/10 s, R72.3, G61.8, B75.5

    Caught leaning the wrong way.

    Introduction: It is important to hear this story in relation to the
    previous story of the Good Samaritan. As St. Luke so often does he
    couples two stories, one about an ideal male disciple (Good
    Samaritan) and the other about an ideal female disciple (Mary). In
    this case they exemplify the previous answer: What must I do to inherit
    eternal life? Love God and Love Neighbor. Jesus says: Do this and
    you will live. After the emphasis on the action of the good Samaritan
    this story again catches us leaning the wrong way. We expect Jesus to
    praise the action and work of Martha. Listen to what he says.

    From Martha’s point of view the problem is threefold: l) the demands of
    hospitality or table service are too great, 2) she is alone in
    fulfilling them, 3) and the Lord fails to note her plight. Her solution
    is that Jesus recognize her situation and take action by ordering her
    sister to help her in fulfilling her many tasks.

    Jesus does not accept Martha’s solution. Indeed he does not accept her
    assessment of the problem.

    (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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