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Breaking the mould

Martha wants to cook a fantastic meal for Jesus. To do so she needs a little bit of help from Mary.

At this point in the story, there is a clash of interests, as Mary wants to listen to what Jesus has to say without the distraction of Martha organising the kitchen or the rattle of utensils.

Indeed she assumes the position of a disciple by sitting at the feet of the teacher. No doubt, onlookers thought she was a bit of an upstart, revolutionary and trouble-maker, as that place was normally reserved for males, and not females, in the mores of the society of Jesus’ time.

Martha, meanwhile, is gaining more social face, as she is fulfilling the traditional female role of cooking and serving, and looking after the guests in the house.

Jesus suggests that to be a good disciple we have not only to do our bit, but a bit more. He does not chide Mary for forgetting her role as a good hostess, but suggests that Mary has chose the better part, even though, no doubt, Jesus would have been happy enough just to have a snack and to have both Martha Mary sit and chat with him.

For us, we need not only nourishment for the body, but to spend time listening to the word of God and acting on it. The question we are being asked in the readings of today is, “How often do we find time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his word?”

A good host attends to the needs of their guest and refrains from telling them what they need. When we invite Jesus into our home, at the Eucharist or in prayer, whose priorities do we attend to? Do we ever ask ourselves what Jesus’ priorities be for us might be.

During this coming week we celebrate the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene Monday. The actual feast is on July 22.

Mary was a disciple of Christ. He healed her by casting out seven devils. She stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus died. She was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection when she found his tomb empty.

In the Gospel of St. Mark, it is Mary Magdalene to whom the risen Jesus first appears and, in addition, in St. John’s account, Jesus gives her a message to pass on to his brethren.

However, she certainly fulfilled the greatest commandment of the law, which is to love God with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. Today, works of charity have become more urgent and worldwide.

If the exercise of charity is to be above all criticism, and seen to be so, we need to see in our neighbour the image of God in which we are all created. This is an incentive to be generous in our support of projects that work for the common good.


         l Diocese of Sandhurst