16th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
In this week’s Gospel we meet two sisters who seem to be very different – Martha thinks hospitality is the most important thing to do while Mary thinks listening to the words of Jesus is important. Many of us identify with one or other of the two sisters and say we are a ‘Martha’ or a ‘Mary’ as though each were competing against the other. It seems to me it is more likely that we are called to be both, not one or the other. One is not better than the other but we need both sides of ourselves depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
In the passage Marth is doing what she thinks is right – she welcomes Jesus into her home. Mary, on the other hand, was doing what she thought was right – she was listening to Jesus and what He had to say was important to her. Martha was obviously caught up with her hospitality duties and felt Mary should be helping her. She even appealed to Jesus to see if He was bothered that Mary didn’t seem to be helping. She got an answer she was not expecting from Jesus because it can seem that He was reprimanding her by saying that Mary has chosen the better part. Indeed, over the years, it has been interpreted by some to mean that it is better to be Mary than Martha.
Jesus is giving us clear messages which may include:
Getting our priorities right – yes it is important to be hospitable but not at the expense of actually spending time with and listening to your guests.
Thinking about what worries us – are the things really important or have we made them important?
What are our priorities in life? Are they what they should be?
What is our number one priority in life? WHO is our number one priority?
If we can answer these questions truthfully then, hopefully, we will be able to discern when we should be ‘Martha’ and when ‘Mary’. Whatever we do for Jesus or for others should be done in love, no matter what it is or how small or important it may be. It is not always WHAT we do but HOW we do things. Ecclesiastes 3: 1 says ‘there is a time for everything’ – all we need to do is to ensure we are doing the right thing at the right time. Now that can’t be too hard, can it?
Sr. Margaret Mattison