Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
July 21th, 2013
Year C

In the past, prisoners of war were sometimes forced to dig huge holes. They would work fourteen-hour days under close supervision. Then, when the holes were finally dug, they would be ordered to start filling them in again. The work is thus rendered pointless. Similarly, we have all probably had the experience of riding a bike when the chain comes loose. You pedal harder and faster, but you can't make any progress. Thinking of these examples in terms of our lives of faith – nothing makes a difference, our lives become devoid of meaning if Christ is not the center of our lives. All that we are, every ounce of our being – our work, worship, relationships, etc – must be Christ-centered. This is what Jesus is teaching us in this gospel passage.

It is a favorite literary device of St. Luke to follow a story about a man to a thematically linked one about a woman. This passage comes immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan in which Jesus teaches something about the love of one’s neighbor. Martha exemplifies that as she welcomes the Lord into her house. She goes out of her way to receive Him. Perhaps, then, because of her generous heart, she becomes distracted. She wants to make Jesus feel welcome, comfortable, and at ease. While, at the same time, her sister Mary has seemingly abandoned her. There is a noticeable dichotomy between these two women. Dominican Father Bede Jarrett notes that those who rush from one distraction to another are those that feel tormented by loneliness. They are the type of people that are constantly looking to fill the void in their lives. Martha had taken her eyes off of the Lord – even if but for a moment –forgot what her efforts were supposed to be about in the first place and had cast blame on her sister for “leaving her hanging.”

But Mary teaches us something in this regard. She is seated at Jesus’ feet. She uses her freedom to place herself at His feet. She chooses, Jesus tells us, “the better part.” It is a sign of deep humility, a willingness to hear and be fed by His teaching. St. Augustine comments on this gospel in this way:

“Martha, who was arranging and preparing the Lord’s meal, was busy doing many things, whereas Mary preferred to be find her meal in what the Lord was saying. In a way she deserted her sister, who was very busy, and sat herself down at Jesus’ feet and just listened to his words. She was faithfully obeying what the Psalm said: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 40:10)” (Sermon, 103).

Why has Mary chosen “the better part”? Does this render Martha’s labor for Lord meaningless? I think yes and no. In order to understand the nature of Jesus’ response to Martha it is necessary to take a look all the way back to the first Genesis account of the creation of man. God creates man, Adam, on the sixth day of creation. On the seventh day, He created the Sabbath, the day of rest. God consecrates the seventh day and makes it holy. In the second account of creation, when Adam is formed from the dust of the earth he is given the task of having dominion over the earth and naming all the animals. If we combine these two accounts we will notice that the Sabbath follows Adam’s work. His first full day on earth, is a holy day. It is as if God were saying to him – “your work and your worship go together.” Everything that we do as human beings, all of our work – at our jobs, in our homes and families, in our friendships, etc – everything that we do is oriented toward the Sabbath, it is directed toward our worship and thus must be done in view of the eternal. Like the prisoners of war digging holes and then filling them back up, like a bike without a chain, an active Christian life forgetful of union with God is useless and barren. At the same time, an apparent life of prayer forgetful of the apostolate – forgetful of the needs of those around us and the sanctification of the ordinary events of daily life also fails to please God.

In today’s first reading, Abraham gives us an example of the balance between Martha and Mary. He immediately perceives that the visitors to his home are angels of the Lord. God has come to him and he knows it. Abraham, therefore, runs out to greet them. He paid homage to them first – He worshiped and showed his love for God. At that, he went out to serve. This is what we are meant to experience in our Sunday worship – in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is our glimpse of heaven and brings meaning to our lives of faith.

It seems then that Martha intention was directed toward Christ and so her service was full of meaning. At the same time, however, she took her eyes off of Him – even if for a brief moment. Mary teaches us that the “better part” is first and foremost contemplation of God. No matter what we do in life, no matter our different vocations, the work that we do must be oriented toward heaven. This a truth that must penetrate the heart because from the heart flows love and then is elevated to – is directed toward – heaven.

In what ways then, can we choose “the better part”; how can our service to God and Neighbor be rendered meaningful and fruitful? We must simply choose to be holy and want that for others as well. We must also remember that as a community we are not alone in this pursuit of the perfection of charity. We were made for relationship. By choosing to be holy, by placing God first in our lives, we can then encourage one another, pray for one another, learn from one another, and help each other orient our lives heavenward.















Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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