HOMILY FOR THE 16th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME YEAR C


1.Gen 18: 1-10a
2. Col1:24-28
Gospel: Lk 10:38-42

 Our Fundamental tasks: " The Lord of the Work and the Work of the Lord"

In one of interior parts of Africa, a missionary priest happened to be  well committed in doing his job in that area of African continent. In few years he had baptized many people and built a church,  a school and health center.  Due to his restless work schedule he got sick and had to be flown back to his native country for special treatment. After many months he was well enough to return to Africa. However, after his arrival in Africa, he was completely surprised, after he discovered that the entire village abandoned his church and turned to a local evangelical preacher. Even the church he built now had an evangelical signboard in front of it. " The missionary priest out of curiosity asked, " what went wrong?" How did his flourishing mission collapse overnight. " What did I do wrong?" he asked this question to his formal church members. The truth hit him once when a woman said to him, " Father, you did a lot for us. You gave our children clothes and built up our village. However, there is one thing you forgot and you did not do it. You did not bring us to know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior." Doing the work of the Lord is great. But knowing the Lord of the work comes first.

In our today's gospel we hear the story of two sisters, Martha who is busy with the work of the Lord and Mary who is more interested in knowing  the Lord of the work. Let us understand the orientations of the two sisters. First, Martha is a service oriented person as she is portrayed in the gospel's scenario, second, Mary's orientation is relationship with Jesus. Like the missionary in our story, Martha must have been shocked to hear the Lord himself saying that it is relationship with Him that comes first, because without it service is meaningless.

In our gospel story, many people may think that Martha was the materialist and Mary the spiritual one.  The association of Martha with materialism is easy to be made in the sense of original root of name,' Martha', that in English language seems to rhyme with the word " matter." However, this stream of thinking  in terms of separation between spirit and matter does not belong to the gospel of Luke. In the gospel St. Luke the evangelist presents Martha and Mary as two sisters who are both interested in the Lord, two women who both want to please the Lord. The difference between them is the manner in which they go about trying to please the Lord. As said before, Martha takes the way of service or working  for the Lord. Mary takes the way of relationship or being with the Lord.


From the other evangelist more especially St, Mark the evangelist, we understand that Jesus called the apostles to follow him, he called them for dual purpose: " to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message." (Mark 3:14). The need on the one hand , is to be with the Lord, to know him, to fellowship with him and be nourished by his word and, on the other hand, to do the Lord's work, to serve the Lord in others, to proclaim his message of love in word and deed, brings us to a conflict. The issue is that which one should enjoy the priority? How much of my time should I devote to being with the Lord, to prayer and listening to God's word, and how much time to doing the work of the Lord? In spite of the urgent need to throw ourselves into the work of the Lord, it is only logical to say that my relationship with the Lord of the work comes before my involvement with the work of the Lord.


We can ask ourselves this question that what is the pivotal point of the story we have heard in our today's gospel? I think the point of the story of Jesus with Mary and Martha is not to invite us to choose between being a Martha or Mary. The true disciple needs to be both Martha and Mary. We are challenged by the story in our today's gospel on our priorities. What our most priorities? We are challenged to understand that fellowship with the Lord, being with the Lord, and hearing His word should always be given the first priority and should take precedence over the work we do for the Lord. Do we really have a daily schedule of daily fellowship with the Lord? Some fulfill this by assisting daily in the Eucharist where they can also hear the word of God. Others schedule a holy hour or quiet time when they can pray and read the word of God.


When Martha complains that Mary is not helping her Jesus seems He doesn't even care, Jesus reprimands her. His concern is not what she or Mary is doing but doing the will of God at the moment and this is most important. That we must listen interiorly to the Lord's direction and deeper needs of those around us.


Actually this might be a strong and convincing reason why God created us with two eyes and two ears but only one tongue. He wants us to speak less but see and listen more especially in our hearts. Let us take this example that may help us to understand the gospel reading, that washing a car is pretty much the same as washing your heart. First the car must be still( must not be moving) so that it can be washed. Likewise, the heart the heart must be silent so that it can listen .God cannot speak to a noisy heart. Second, the car like the heart must be obedient and submissive. God cannot speak to a heart that denies, rationalizes or postpones. Third, the car is like the heart, must be open so that all the deepest corners and chambers can be reached and cleaned. In the same way, God cannot clean and heal a heart that is closed tight."

The women portrayed in our today's gospel represent the two dimensions of our spiritual life. Martha represents the active apostolic life because she was hard working  and could even say selfless in what she was doing. However, there is a danger. The danger is that even good works and apostolate can leave the soul empty if we neglect our prayer and interior life. Christ sees the effects in Martha: " you are anxious and concerned about many things..." we can understand these dangerous attitude that Jesus saw in Martha. He saw deep down inside of her the dangerous attitude of: Resentment, Narrowness and Unkindness. Anxiety and worry as well. These were to fill the vacuum left by a lack of serious prayer. The Lord will be pleased if and only if we don't forget our soul with prayer and reflection.



Moreover, Mary is of the contemplative life, as she sits down attentively listening and learning from Christ and find deeper meaning in his teaching. Without attention to prayer soon run the risk of having entered into our minds and hearts criteria and interests that are very far from the heart of Christ whom we should desire to emulate. However in this perspective we are also challenged by the fact that our love must also become incarnate in whatever we do to meet the needs of others. That is, Martha and Mary: work and contemplation, prayer and service. Listening and doing. In a nut shell we need to have a balance between service and contemplation. Good disciple prays and serves. There is no option between active apostolic life and contemplative life because they are not in opposition with each other but of complementary. We need the two in our lives as Christians, it is not only because Jesus needs listeners, but He also needs cooks.

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Chapisha Maoni