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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Week's Reflecton from Fr. Bob Warren: "You Have Chosen the Better Part" (Luke 10:38-42)

Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
"You Have Chosen the Better Part"
(Luke 10:38-42)
In 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.
First 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.
Then 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.
Between 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."
God 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?"
I 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 my Cross."
We 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 part."
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director

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