This Week's Reflecton from Fr. Bob Warren: "You Have Chosen the Better Part" (Luke 10:38-42)
"You Have Chosen the Better Part"
some ways, this Martha and Mary story can be annoying to many of us.
You do not want to be seen as too much like Martha, ignoring the guest
or like passive Mary, but there is really much more to these two sisters
than you might think. Behind its short sentences, there are some
surprising deeper revelations that during that first century Christians
would have immediately picked up and been surprised at.
Mary—let's take a look at what she is doing, sitting at the Lord's feet
listening to Him. Given the customs of this time when male and female
roles were always separate, with women in the kitchen and men in the
living room, Mary is crossing boundaries. She boldly came in where Jesus
was and did what only men were allowed to do. She sat at the feet of
Jesus, the teacher. This is the customary sign that someone wished to
be a master's student, His disciple, something only open to men. Mary
ignored all this and presented herself as a disciple, and thereby,
assumed equality with men. Jesus not only allowed it, but praised it.
So once more, He turned the world upside down.
there is Martha, she comes across, perhaps, as a "Type A" personality
who cannot sit still, but this is not to underestimate her positions,
her passion and her faith. To gain an appreciation of Martha, recall
her in another well-known gospel story. She appears in John's gospel
where she and her sister Mary are grieving over the death of their
brother Lazarus. Recall that it is Martha who speaks up and dares to
scold Jesus. "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have
died." Then she makes a stunning profession of faith every bit equal to
that of St. Peter who at Caesarea Philippi in answer to Jesus'
question, "Who do people say that I am," responded, "You are the
Messiah, the Son of the Living God." Martha at her brother's grave says
the same thing to Jesus. After Martha's complaint, Jesus had said to
her, "Everyone who believes in Me will never die." Then he asks her, "Do
you believe this?" Martha responded, "We have come to believe You are
the Messiah, the Son of God, the One coming into the world." There she
is proclaiming the same words, the same faith as Peter, thereby becoming
the female counterpart and co-founder of the faith.
the lines there is something revolutionary being said in this little
gospel story, something that gets lost in our culture today. Both
Martha and Mary heard Jesus speak firsthand many times, a privilege we
do not have. But God is ceaselessly speaking to us in the world around
us. In the words of the psalmist, "The heavens are telling the glory of
God and the firmament proclaims His handiwork," for God fashions
nothing, unless it images some perfection of His. There is no blade of
grass that does not speak of Him. The wind, the mountains, the sea and
sky all reflect their Creator, and if you miss that message, it is
because you are not tuned into God, you are not listening. God also
speaks to us through history, through human events. The civil rights
movement was a cry from God—Let My People Go. Whenever people have to
beg for bread or for justice, they do so with the voice of Jesus. And
sometimes I need Him to touch my ears and say, "Be opened."
also speaks to us in our personal history. A short time ago, I buried a
man who was half my age, a young man full of talent, full of love and
life. That life was stolen from him, not swiftly and painlessly, but
slowly and cruelly. Those of us who stood by were tempted to complain
with Martha at the death of her brother. "Lord if you had been here our
brother would not have died." We could not help but ask as we often do
in these situations, "Lord, where were you when He whom You loved was
dying? Where were You?"
am sure many of you have experienced this at such times. It is only by
listening, almost in desperation, that we hear God speaking, not
explaining, not defending, not justifying, but saying, "Do you love me?
Then trust me. I do care. I was never closer to him than in those last
agonizing months, for every Gethsemane is my garden and every Calvary is
are busy people. We do not slow down. My friends, if you want to
strengthen your faith, simply listen. Listen to one another. Listen to
Jesus in the proclaimed Word and the words of the Mass. Stop and listen
after every prayer. Listen to the words of God in the world around you,
and recall the words from the Old Testament—"Be still and know that I am
God." And then the Lord will say of you, "You have chosen the better