Kathleen Giffin


Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 17, 2016
Genesis 18.1-10 | Psalm 15 | Colossians 1.24-28 | Luke 10.38-42
July 11, 2016

I've always been able to relate to Martha, the busy responsible sister. The story of Jesus' rebuke to her, in support of Mary who abdicates her responsibility to do her share in caring for guests, has long felt unfair to me.

Yet at the same time I have great admiration for a friend of mine who has the capacity to be truly present to the people she is with, whether they are friends or strangers, even when that results in neglecting the job at hand. I've wondered whether that is part of Mary's way that Jesus is commending, a way of being fully given to the presence of the person, welcoming and valuing by the attention given to them.

Martha was distracted by her many tasks. - Luke 10.40

'Martha was distracted by her many tasks.

Luke 10.40

So I resolved to try to be a different kind of host when we had a gathering at our house last week. I wanted to be more like Mary and my friend, less concerned that everything got done in a timely way and more concerned with the people who came in my door, more attentive to each one.

That didn't work so well. I still found myself being busy about many things, distracted by the demands of hosting and identifying with Martha.

So now I wonder; what was Jesus pointing to in Mary that deserved such praise? Perhaps my experiment in offering hospitality in a different way missed the point. Perhaps it is not simply responsibility to needs of people versus responsivity to the presence of people.

The Scriptures are clear in saying we must be practical in our love; we must feed the hungry, welcome the stranger and comfort the distressed. Our love cannot be simply kind sentiment without action. It is not enough to say "be blessed" when someone is hungry, naked or lonely.

On one hand, Jesus told Martha she was distracted. She was distracted by many things; perhaps by the need to have everything done right, by having it all kept up, looking good, satisfying the social demand, being the good householder.

Mary, on the other hand, had her eyes fixed on Jesus. Jesus was the centre; Jesus was the source; Jesus was the destination. Mary saw the world and her life from a new stance; Mary had experienced a transformation.

It is transformation to which Jesus calls us. We cannot have our faith as an add-on, as a certain aspect of life that, no matter how well we live it remains as simply an aspect of life.

The transformation required affects every aspect of our lives; if there has not been a change in how we see ourselves and others we have not yet been transformed. The narrow way, the narrow gate, will only be found if it is our destination. Jesus must be the centre, around which everything else finds its place.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)