Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday word

27th Tuesday B (10 Oct 2006) Gal 1. 13-24; Ps 139; Lk 10. 38-42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
What Do We Know?

The famous pair of Martha and Mary are misunderstood. What do we know? We know they were sisters. We also know they welcomed Jesus into the safety and comfort of their home. Travelers depended on hospitality of others, especially in hostile territory as Jesus was as he made his way to Jerusalem, which would be most hostile to him. The sister’s hospitality feels more tender because the episode follows immediately the Good Samaritan parable.

We also know hospitality in the Mediterranean world had two very important rules: 1) to pay attention to the guest; and 2) not to demand guests intervene in their hosts’ affairs.

Martha and Mary both received Jesus. My own experiences in Mediterranean countries help me appreciate both reception by others and leave me in awe at how attentive they are. Martha and Mary received the Prophet-Messiah. When the guest is a prophet, one’s attention is both to the person of the prophet and more to the word of God the prophet announces.

Luke is very plain: Martha was overwhelmed with much serving. She was not neurotic as many have implied or others have diagnosed! Blessed was Martha for welcoming Jesus, but had she tried to impress him with more than her welcome and attention?

We know one more thing clearly: Martha violated hospitality when she demanded her guest, Jesus, settle the rivalry that had grown between her and her sister, between serving Jesus and listening to him deliver God’s word.

No choosing between Martha and Mary can exist for us. Why? Because each of us is both Martha and Mary. We extend our welcome to Jesus as both sisters did. In better moments we focus on the word of God Jesus revealed by his person. In our more frenzied moments we perform for Jesus with more flourish than Jesus expects. For us frenzy has an air of normalcy about it. Frenzy is in fact hostile territory: it distracts us from Jesus and it distracts us both from hearing the word Jesus is and living it.

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