14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Walking in Necessary Devotion”
Genesis 18: 1-10a
Colossians 1: 15-23
Luke 10: 38-42
As Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, she discovered this is only the one thing that is necessary. Listening comes before acting. We need to listen, to get directions and instructions before we can act. Not that listening is more important, but it is a prerequisite; a chronology. Get the vision and run with it. It is like saying that Grade One is not more important than Grade Two. It is just the order of progression.
If we act before we listen, it gets us in trouble. If we ignore instructions, we get in trouble. We get lost. It is necessary to learn to sit and listen because this one thing will bring harmony to the other things which are not that unimportant but it is just that we have to follow the one thing that is needful and necessary.
The problem in the gospel today is not that Martha was busy and Mary was not. Martha was anxious; she was bothered and distracted with too many things. This is not God’s will for us because what He desires for us is to have peace which is the absence of anxiety. Martha was lost in the many; Mary was anchored in the one necessary thing. Not one of the things that we are thinking about today or that will happen tomorrow is more important than what we are doing right now, in this Mass, sitting at the feet of Jesus – listening and receiving of His fullness. This is one thing necessary to make us effective in handling and dealing with all the other things that the world is anxious about.
The reason Jesus was hated by the religious leaders of this time was because He overturned what was socially, culturally, and even religiously conventional. He ate with sinners; He associated with the Samaritans; He was kind to Roman soldiers; He touched the unclean. He did the things that the religious people thought was radical and abominable. In fact, He was also guilty of the radical inclusion of women which was taboo in that culture before. Rabbis did not teach women. Men got the privilege of sitting at the rabbi’s feet, and the women worked in the kitchen. The audacity of Mary to sit with the disciples and at Jesus’ feet upset Martha because it was not her place as a woman.
Martha went to Jesus and she tried to convince Him of her argument. This is what we sometimes do. We think that our disputes, our arguments, and our opinions are more important than what Jesus has to say to us rather than sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet learning from Him and getting rest for our souls. Martha had a case against Mary and she brought it to Jesus. Jesus tells her, “Chill, Martha, relax! You are so anxious about too many things. Really, there is only one thing you need to worry about. Really, there is only one thing you need to focus on, and then all the other things will be added unto you, and you will be able to handle them more effectively.”
Jesus stood wrong religion on its head and showed the people what the kingdom of God is like or what God’s way is like. St. Paul said that in the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus, there is no slave or free, no Greek or Jew, nor male or female. In that culture before, a free man was a lot better than a slave. Jews believe that they are the chosen people of God, and the Greeks were lower and condemned and were not children of God. Male was just seen as superior over women.
We are not advocating unisex mentality, but we are equal having different roles. Jesus calls and wants everyone to hear from Him and to receive from Him no matter how we see each other. Some people think they are more entitled in Church than others. Some think they are more favored by God than others. We think we are more worthy than others. This is not so because everyone is called by God.
In Mark 3:14-15, Jesus appointed twelve men so that they could be with Him and that they could be sent out to preach. Jesus calls them first to be with Him before they could be sent out to preach and to proclaim the gospel and the kingdom of God. We have a lot of things to do – in Church, in our personal lives, but first and foremost is what Mary discovered the one thing needful – be with Jesus first. If we are sent out to do mission first without being with Jesus, we will not be fruitful and effective.
Everyone is invited to be intimate with Jesus Christ, our bridegroom. This brings us to the Biblical metaphor of marriage. People get married to be with each other and spend the rest of their lives being with each other. It is two becoming one, which is the purpose. In married life, the couple faces reality where there is much to do. There are things they need to deal with - chores, responsibilities, bills to pay, and children to raise. These things are not the reason they got married. The couple did not get married to be more able to do these things, but to be one with each other first in order to be able to do the other necessary things.
This is the metaphor that is applied to us, as Jesus’ Church is the bride and Him being the bridegroom. If we are not careful to protect that one purpose of marriage, then, the busyness will overtake us. Our relationship will be defined by doing chores and paying bills. We become more like roommates for convenience rather than married couples. We did not marry to do chores or to pay bills better, but to become one flesh. If we are distracted on the other things rather than focus on the two becoming one, we will be lost and we will fall in the same trap that Martha fell into. We will lose sight of the reason of becoming one and not be motivated to resolve conflict. If couples find that one necessary thing to do, of becoming one, they will do other things more effectively and better. Never lose sight of the one thing necessary in the relationship.
In the kingdom of God, we have many responsibilities, but only one thing is needful: the necessary devotion to know God and to be with Him. Make it habit to sit still and be at Jesus’ feet. Life is busy and it goes on 24/7 and it doesn’t stop. It is difficult. Practice the skill of being still and ceasing to strive and knowing that God is God.
There is a simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” In our anxiety, we think that we have to a long list of our requests that we make known to God. There is a time for this, but sometimes, all we need to do is to be still in the presence of God. If we think we have something to say, which He already knows in the first place, don’t we think God has more important things to say to us? The one thing needful for us to do is to learn to sit at Jesus’ feet and surely, we will find it refreshing and we will find rest in the presence of the Lord.
We are called to be sent out and to proclaim the gospel of God. We are called to make Him known and to give to others, but we cannot give what we do not have. How can we give the love of God if we do not have it ourselves first? How can we share the fullness of Jesus if we don’t receive it first? How can we manifest the Divine nature of Jesus if we don’t fill ourselves with it first? How can we positive-think ourselves to love our enemies? We need to spend time at Jesus’ feet and receive His nature. Drink deeply from His well of love, peace, joy, mercy, grace and get His affirmation.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the other things will be added unto us and flow. Righteousness means right relationship; right relatedness. If we acquire the wisdom of this, we will be rightly related to God, to ourselves, and to others. St. Paul says that the love of Christ compels us to do good things. St. Paul did not do good works to get the love of Christ. St. Paul did good works because he had the love of Christ. We have to have the love of Christ in us before it can control us to do things. We don’t do good things in order to get the love. The love of God is given to us by grace but many times, we just resist it.
We are either a Martha or a Mary. We either live life out of emptiness trying to get full or we can learn to be full and live life out of the celebration and giving of what we already have. Jesus said, “This is eternal life: to know God the Father and to know His Son. Everything flows from this. If we force it without knowing God first, then, our works will be inauthentic and ineffective.
Take our place at Jesus feet! Colossians says that Jesus has first place in everything. Now, does He have first place in our hearts, in our minds, and in the morning when we open our eyes or does iPhone or Samsung have first place?
Our Church’s mission statement is to know God first and to make Him known. We cannot make Him known without knowing Him first. We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves without loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind first. This is the order of things. This is the one thing necessary and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.