Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 17th July, 2016

Living in the Presence of the Lord

There are many ways of making people welcome - and today we meet two women who welcomed Jesus to their home in very different ways.

 Martha welcomes Him by offering hospitality - good food - good wine. Her sister Mary welcomes Him by sitting with Him and listening to all that He has to say. As is so often the case, different ways of doing things leads to annoyance and argument. Martha is so preoccupied with organizing the meal that she forgets her role as friend and listener. Mary is so preoccupied with her role as friend and listener that she forgets that Jesus might need something to eat!

 Martha appeals to Jesus and tells him off for encouraging Mary to sit around and listen rather than helping. Jesus does not take offence - but reminds her that there is a difference in making someone  welcome - and getting hot and bothered about it.

 Jesus’ response must have taken her by surprise, for he tells her that “Mary has chosen the part and it shall not be taken from her”. Essentially, Jesus told Martha that she was not being really present to him.

 This story shows us that sometimes the actions we undertake, even with the best of intentions, make us lose sight of what really matters. Jesus is not telling Martha that her work is not important, nor is he commending Mary for doing nothing. He is simply reminding his followers that if we want to serve him we must first listen to him.

Sometimes, it is more important to “be” rather than to “do”. We need to be people of prayer before we can be people of action.

Otherwise our actions can be about us and it is possible to do good things for all kinds of reasons like, for example, our need to be needed or to impress others.

Such behaviour can easily undermine the message of the good news which must always be about Jesus and his kingdom. Jesus wants us to be attentive to His presence.

Every day of our life we are opening or closing our door to that presence in the way we live. The response to our Psalm on this Sunday reminds us “The just will live in the presence of the Lord”.

Fr Kevin O'Shea, C.M.