Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The world we live in is a fast, relentless world. In the west the mantras of multitasking, of working and playing hard, within a 24/7 hive of activity are constantly bubbling underneath our day to day lives. This focus on being busy is not a new thing but in the early 21st century we have reached a new level of intensity and pace that in many ways is damaging to us as humans but also damaging to our Christian lives. The western world’s obsession with production and results has trickled down into our entire subconscious. We can get so caught up in this cycle that our perception and awareness can become damaged. As Christians we can lose focus on our true goal, on our true calling to the Gospel and friendship with God. We see this tension in the sisters Martha and Mary.

Jesus arrives in their town and is welcomed into their house. The Lamb of God, the Word Incarnate, God Himself is in under their roof and he is teaching. God is with Martha and Mary in the most tangible way and yet Martha is distracted: she busies herself with serving. Of course her intentions are noble. The treatment of guests is a very important element of Middle Eastern culture, as we saw in Abraham’s treatment of the angelic trio in our first reading and Jesus is the most important guest of all. Martha’s failing is not with what she is doing but her focus during her action. Jesus tells her that she is “anxious and troubled about many things”. She has allowed these concerns to divert her focus. God Himself is in her house speaking to her and she is more concerned with place settings and pouring wine for her guests.

All of us can have similar tendencies. It is very easy to lose ourselves and put on the blinkers of work and functions. When we do this we can gain perceptible and obvious results. If we have a clear objective and boxes to tick it is much easier for us to be satisfied with what we do. This mentality even affects the life of the Church; we can turn devotions into rattling through prayers; we can turn liturgy into merely following the rules and the general instruction; we can turn ministries into meeting targets and ticking boxes. It is so easy for our focus to turn from our true goal; for our ears to lose track of the God speaking to us in hearts.

We feel secure when we can perceive our results easily. A relationship with God is not an easy thing, from our side, to sustain. We need to keep focused on it. We need to keep our attention on the Lord. He is our guest. He dwells in us and we need to be humble enough to spend the time at the Lord’s feet listening to his teaching like Mary. This does not restrict our activities. If anything it opens up a whole world of possibilities for us but must do so in a way that we do not put up barriers to accepting the friendship of God which is constantly offered to us. We must at all times, in whatever we do, to be ready and able to listen to the voice of God.

Mark Davoren