October 8, 2019
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University's Christian Spirituality Program
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 462

Jonah 3:1-10
Psalms 130:1b-2, 3-4ab, 7-8
Luke 10:38-42

Praying Ordinary Time

Not to Worry

“There was man who had two sons.”  (Luke 15: 11).   This wise father allowed his sons to pursue their own ways.  The younger son demanded his “share of the property,” his inheritance.  Freely the father gave it.  Foolishly the son squander it.  The father hoped his son would eventually return. The elder son did not ask for anything, was give nothing special, but remained faithful to his father, continued working his father’s property. In the end the younger son feeling unworthy, repented of his “sin”.  The prodigal father welcomed his son home, celebrating with a “fatted calf”. The faithful elder son was angry and resentful towards his brother and their father.  He was not given even a “fatted goat” in recognition of his faithfulness.(Culturally the “fatted calf” was more desirable and appreciated than a “fatted goat.”)

In today’s reading we hear about two sisters:  Martha and Mary. In their culture, the women of the house extended hospitality to guests.  Women prepared the food, waited on and served their guests.  This was Martha, faithful to her role and familial duties as dictated by the culture of the time.  Image her feelings toward Mary who neglecting her duties was sitting at Jesus’ feet!  Possibly Martha felt anger, resentment. Embarrassed by Mary’s behavior  – what would Jesus, think of Mary’s unexpected and unacceptable behavior. What could happen to Mary for disregarding her duties?    At least reprimand by their family and community.

Back to Jesus and Mary.  What’s going on here?   Jesus addresses the sisters jointly:

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 
There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and
 it will not be taken from her.”

What is the “better part”?  We often think that means to sit at Jesus’ feet – which is always the best way to experience an intimate relationship with Jesus.    However, could the “better part” mean something more?  Could Jesus be inviting Mary to step beyond herself?  Take a different path, whatever that may mean.  Could Jesus be offering Mary a new way of being? Telling her it is OK. She does not have to live within the confines of the expectations of others. Jesus did not scold Martha.  His words have a comforting, softness to them.  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried…”

This parable is not so much about Martha as it is about the intimacy of the relationship between Mary and Jesus.  About my relationship with Jesus. We are not privy to Mary’s desires.  We are invited into Jesus’ invitation to move beyond our comfort zone.  To move out. To come closer. 

There are always choices.  In these two parables we hear of two brothers and two sisters who wrestle with their choices – their God initiated invitations and their not-of-God temptations.  We hear the out come of one, but not of the others.  What we do hear, what we do experience is the loving, attentive, comforting, and unconditional acceptances of the father.  The Father.  Of Jesus.

The Good news:  Our Father and Jesus will always be present – unconditionally loving, encouraging us to step beyond ourselves – follow God’s invitations. To grow. To become.    If at times we instead entertain the not-of-God temptations, God will always unconditionally, lovingly and lavishly embrace our return with forgiving hugs, kisses and a fatted calf!  We are loved beyond measure.  Not to worry.

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