Browsing Homilies

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gn 18:1-10a | Ps 15 | Col 1:24-28 | Lk 10:38-42

Do you have a Martha in your life? Are you the Martha in your family’s or friend’s lives—that person who hosts a party and is running around the whole time making sure everything is in its perfect location and well stocked?

Marthas are often hyper-focused and hyperaware, running around to make sure everyone has what they need, feels welcomed, and is having a good time—to the extent that they often forget to enjoy the very party they are throwing.

Marthas can get so consumed in a task or an aspect of a job that they forget the big picture or the reason they’re doing the task in the first place. Maye we are Martha when we cram for an exam and work hard to get that A, but forget that the information that we learn isn’t just for a class but meant to be carried well beyond the classroom.

Maybe we are Martha when our kids ask for help with their homework and we just give them the answers because we forget that the process of learning is often more important than the just the answers themselves.

Maybe we are Martha when we debate passionately about restrictions and Church teaching and forget Jesus’ greater call to love. Like Martha, we can often forget why we are doing the things we do and lose sight of and get distracted by other aspects of any part of our lives.

In our gospel today, we find Jesus coming to his friends’ house to socialize, talk, and just chill. He wants to spend some time in the presence of his friends. Like Martha, most of us are probably also concerned about our hospitality whenever we have an expected (or unexpected) guest we might wish to impress or simply take care of. We, too, could be hyper-concerned with how we are perceived, whether the guest thinks we’re good hosts, and if there’s anything missing.

It’s right to be concerned about hospitality (the second mark of our parish mission statement) because it is important to make guests feel welcomed and valued in our homes and in our parishes. But this couldn’t be what Jesus is saying when he says that Mary has “chosen the better part.” Perhaps this is why this gospel is paired with our first reading, where Abraham goes out of his way to provide over-the-top hospitality to the three men traveling by. He goes out into the burning desert sun, bows to his visitors, and urges them, “please do not go on past your servant.” He pulls out all the stops, bathes their feet, and has his wife bake some freshly made bread. After this, Abraham is rewarded with the promise of a son. Thus, the gospel cannot be taken at just face value, as if work and hospitality are inferior to the contemplative life.

Rather, we might hear in Jesus’ voice an urge for Martha to remember why he’s at their house in the first place. “Martha, please don’t be so busy. Stop running around. I’m here only a short while. Please, just come sit with me so we can hang out and catch up.” Jesus wants to be with us, to be in relationship with us, to love us. He just wants to sit at the table and chat about life. He wants to know what’s going on with you. What brings you joy in this life? What are you suffering with; a loved one suffering with? Not because he doesn’t know or it’s for his benefit, but it’s for our benefit. He wants to recline at table, not to be served but to be present with his friends. Hospitality and work have their place, but Jesus urges us to have them properly aligned to the purpose and bigger picture.

Perhaps we can hear Our Lord’s voice saying, “Martha, Martha,” to us when we’re so consumed with hosting a party that we forget to celebrate the very reason for the party. Or when a friend comes over to visit from out of town and we’re so concerned with the appearance of our house that we forget to really catch up with him or her.

Or when we are more concerned with our kids getting the right answer than learning how to think, absorb, and problem-solve. Or when we defend and debate the details of our faith at the expense of Jesus’ overall message of love, forgiveness, and a new-found hope.

We can all be (and probably have been) Marthas at different points in our lives. But Jesus is urging us to remember our purpose and our source: to consider the larger picture in all that we say and do and to remain present and attentive to the words, the presence, and the love of the God who became man.


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