CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Christ the guest but not for one day

A passage about Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) often brings displeasure and a frown to the faces of the hardworking people. Some cite it to demonstrate the superiority of the contemplative over active life.

It says that the sisters and the monks—who in the peace of their cloisters spend their lives reciting prayers—have chosen the better part.

They say that diocesan priests instead absorbed by the many  activities of a parish, or lay people, even if dedicated to social service, even if at great sacrifice to themselves, would be less spiritually perfect.

If the question is posed in terms of reproach to those who work and praise of the idle, it is difficult to agree with Jesus. But is this what he means? 

It should be noted that Martha is not reprimanded because she works, but because she is agitated, anxious, worried. She is troubled about so many things, and above all, because she is committed to work without having first heard the word of God.

 Mary is praised, it is true, but not because she is a slacker, pretending not to notice the work in the kitchen. Jesus just says that the most important thing, to which priority should be given if we do not want to reduce our business to agitation—is listening to the word.

Luke mentions this incident as a lesson of catechesis to Christian communities of the past and of today.

He knows that in them there are many people of good will, many disciples who dedicate themselves to the service of Christ and the brothers and sisters. They are generous of their time, effort and money. 

Yet even in this intense and generous activity there lurks a danger: that much feverish work is separated from hearing the word and becomes anxiety, confusion, nervousness, just like that of Martha. 

Even the apostolic commitment, communitarian choices, pastoral projects not guided by the word are reduced to vain noises, broken stirring of pots and ladles.

Throughout the story Mary does not say a word, not even to defend herself, to clarify her position or explain her choice.

She is silent and it leads to the supposition that her silence—a sign of meditation and internalisation of the word—is prolonged even beyond.

We can imagine from the unfinished writing of this anecdote that it is Martha who now needs to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to and recover the calm, the serenity and inner peace.

While Jesus and Martha continue to talk, I imagine Mary who, deep in thought, quiet and happy, puts on her apron and takes her sister’s place in the kitchen. 

Whoever listens to Christ does not forget the commitment to people. But they learn to do it the right way… without agitation.

 

• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ         
Claretian Publications
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com