16th Sunday: “Martha, Martha”

You work well, you don’t harm anyone, but you don’t pray. But machines work well, don’t harm anyone, and don’t pray. Sometimes we can get so busy that we forget what life is all about. We can get so involved in pursuing the things money can buy, that we forget the things money can’t buy.  Jesus never said to work always, but He did say to pray always.  While work is good, we are not called to be workaholics. We are sons and daughters of God and it is sad to see people reducing themselves to the level of a machine. 

Martha became crabby with her sister for not helping her.  Jesus was certainly grateful for the hospitality that Martha was giving Him.  Yet, He saw her inner heart and knew that while there was goodness there, it was not being fed spiritually.  So He gently chided her, “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, it is not to be taken from her.”

Clearly working well and harming no one, falls short of what it means to be fully human. Martha had pushed aside the spiritual needs of her soul.  She had to learn that she would be much happier if she spent time with Jesus, along with doing her work.  We all can do good things for mixed motives.  Was Martha’s motive for serving her guest, to look good in the eyes of others so as to be praised?  Did Martha fuss over things that really didn’t need to be done?  Was there a little sibling rivalry going on?  There are two pitfalls that Catholic spirituality has always warned us about; trying to do good apart from God and His grace; and doing good for the sake of human praise.

God calls everyone one to pray, to talk to Him everyday, even throughout the day.  It’s encouraging to know that many in this parish do spend time in prayer with Jesus daily.  Time spent in prayer is never time wasted.  In fact, such time bears much fruit.  We live such busy lives nowadays that sometimes we might not even be aware of what is really going on within us, or more properly said, of what is not going on inside of us.

Does anyone here ever use a mirror, at home or in the car?  Sure we do, mirrors can help us look our best at any given time.  Well, prayer is meant to be a “spiritual” mirror.  Prayer enables us to look at our inner lives, our motives, our way of looking at things within our minds and hearts.  Perhaps we will see things that we don’t want to see, or perhaps we may see what we may not even be aware of.  Did you ever look in a mirror and see something that shouldn’t be there, like toothpaste, shaving cream or lipstick?   Weren’t you glad that you took a peek in the mirror?  Well, when is the last time you were brave enough to look into your spiritual mirror through prayer?

If something painful from our past keeps popping into our head during prayer, perhaps that may be a signal to us, that God needs to heal that wound with His grace, maybe through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.   Without that healing, such a wound may become an obstacle to our friendship with God and others. Sometimes we can’t pray simply because our minds are so active. St Teresa of Avila, writing about this, said “it is like having a mad man in the attic who rants and raves.  In such moments Jesus gently chides us as well, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one’”.

Computers work well, harm no one, and don’t pray. We are sons and daughters of God by our baptism. Let us not reduce ourselves to the level of a computer.  Let us like Mary meet Jesus in prayer on a regular basis, so that we will be a new type of Martha; spiritually uplifted, strengthened and healed as we go about our busy lives.

Fr. Tom