Homily for Sixteenth Sunday C
The story about the two sisters in our gospel passage this morning and how they reacted to the visit of Jesus reminds me of the journey I made some years ago to Israel. We left Nigeria in high spirit, and many people requested we pray for them while in the holy land. But surprisingly while in Jerusalem I observed it was more of sightseeing than a pilgrimage; shopping took the place of prayer; there was distraction and misplacement of priority. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a sin to shop while on a pilgrimage.
In our gospel passage this morning Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Martha had a sister who preferred to be at the feet of Jesus listening to him rather than try to making Jesus comfortable. Martha on the other hand welcomed Jesus, but she left him in the sitting room to spend her whole time in the kitchen making food for Jesus. At a point she got tired and upset, she returned to the sitting room to complain about her sister (Mary) who sat at the feet of Jesus refusing to help in the kitchen. Jesus answered 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.
It is certainly not a sin to do everything to make your guest comfortable just as it is not sinful to shop while on a pilgrimage, but we must not be distracted and misplace our priorities. Martha did not commit any sin by what she did, it would have been in fact so uncaring if Jesus was offered nothing. Abraham did what Martha did when the Lord visited him as we read in our first reading. Abraham welcomed the Lord in his angels and gave him something to eat. Abraham ran and bowed before them. My Lord, he said I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. Abraham made his guest relax and at home yet wasn’t distracted.
When you distract yourself from the Lord you become tired and frustrated; Martha became tired because she was all by herself while Mary remained strong because she was with the Lord. We all have welcomed Jesus into our homes, our lives and our families. We all know him and that is the reason we are here this morning. However, it is not enough to welcome him, we must stay with him.
So many Christians joyfully welcomed him like Martha, but have no time for him. They are like the seed that fell on the rocky ground in Jesus’ parable of the sower; they died immediately they sprang up because there was no depth of soil. Jesus can be welcomed and abandoned in moments of turbulence for lack of faith. In moments of turbulence, many leave Jesus in their sitting room to run after some other powers. They leave Jesus the miracle worker to run after mere mortals, they leave the sender to run after the messengers. Martha needed help from Mary her sister, but Mary needed that same help, but from Jesus. We most times worry and fret over so many things while only one is needed; Mary chose the better part, to stay with God. She sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the word of God. God comforts us in his word, we don’t comfort God. Martha tried to make Jesus comfortable, but I ask; between Jesus and Martha who is to make each other comfortable? Who is to give each other food to eat? Jesus fed five thousand men, not counting women and children with five loaves and two fish, he continues to feed the world with one loaf; his body. That was the person Martha spent all her time trying to feed. Even his apostles once begged him to eat some food, but he said to them; my food is to do the will of he who sent me, and to accomplish his work (Jn.4:34). The food Jesus needs from us is to do his will, to submit to him in humility and in faith no matter the circumstance; to learn to be at his feet.
Mary chose the better part, but Martha did not chose the wrong side either. She was motivated by love, she loved Jesus and was ready to do anything for him. We are challenged today therefore to learn from both sisters. We must learn from Martha to love Jesus and welcome him into our homes and our lives, to be ready to do anything for him. But like Mary we must not let ourselves be distracted by our show of love for God. Be at his feet to surrender in faith and in humility no matter the circumstance. Our Lord is to comfort us and not the other way round.