Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Genesis 18:1-10
Reading II St. Paul to the Colossians 1:24-28
Gospel Luke 10:38-42
Do we have a balance in our life? Do we have balance in our lives? Do we have hospitality in our heart, or is it in the world?
There is a story about a man who lived in Chicago and he was going to a parent/teacher conference one evening and after he got to the second teacher he began to cry. The teacher asked, “What’s wrong?” The man said, “My wife and my children left me this afternoon. I really love them, and I am here because I want to learn about my son and I want to make sure that he does well in school.”
The teacher asked, “What happened?”
The man was a construction contractor and he answered, “I wanted to provide for my wife and children and buy them everything that they wanted, but in the process I got so involved in working that I forgot about what they needed most — a husband and a father who was around at night to give them love and support.”
I tell you this story because when we look at the Gospel today we have Jesus coming into the house of Martha and Mary with his disciples, and here is Martha busily working in the background preparing things and making things right, and when Jesus comes in Mary comes up to him, sits at his feet and talks with him. Now, if you were Martha, would you be a happy camper? Martha was not happy so she went to Jesus and said, “Jesus, tell Mary that she should do what she is supposed to do. Tell her that she is supposed to help me get things ready.” Martha did not get the answer she was expecting. Jesus said, “Martha, you are anxious and worried about all these things. Mary is doing the right thing. You’re not.”
Now Jesus is not saying Martha was wrong and Mary was right, because we need a balance in our lives. We need a balance between serving and listening, and serving and giving quality time. We can get so involved in living we can forget the why in what we are doing. We can get so involved in living that we forget the purpose in living. We can get so involved in pursuing the things money can buy, that we forget about the things that money cannot buy.
This is the mistake Martha made. She became so involved in preparing a meal for Jesus that she forgot why Jesus came. Jesus didn’t come for a free meal, he came to be with his friends, to talk with them, and be a part of their family.
There was a soldier who was on an island in the South Pacific in a very deserted place. In his free time, he and his buddy would hike around and they found this natural pool and it was marvelous. It had clear water and you could look down ten feet and see the fish swimming. After they finished swimming they looked down and all they could see was their feet because the sand had been driven up around their ankles and legs. It is kind of the way we are. Sometimes in our mind we get so driven by things in the world and the things we have to do — that we really can’t see clearly the things we need to do.
For years my Mom and Dad had the meal for the entire family at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. They prepared everything, we would all go over to their house to eat and be together. After they became older, we children took on the responsibility and the dinners rotated. So, when it was our turn to prepare the dinner, my wife, who did most of the work, prepared the whole meal and everybody came to our house to enjoy it. After a number of years she came to me and said, “This is silly.”
I said, “What do you mean? We’ve done this every year. We’ve done it forever. What do you mean — it is silly?"
She said, “You know we spend all this time preparing for the meal, then after the meal the women go into the kitchen and do all the dishes. Then when we are done with the dishes, everybody leaves.” I admit this was kind of a sexist thing. She asked, “Why do we get together? Don’t we get together to talk with each other and to enjoy each other’s company? Can’t we do something different?”
I asked, “Like what?”
She answered, “Can’t we just have sandwiches? How about everyone bringing in a dish? Can’t we use paper plates?” So that is what we do now, and have continued to do for several years. The point is — we can get ourselves into so much of a rut about how we’ve done things in the past, we never think about if we are doing the right thing. Martha thought she was doing the right thing, and she was. But there has to be balance in our life when we do things, and if we don’t — we get bogged down and forget the important things.
So the Gospel is telling us today that we need to look at ourselves. We need to take quiet time and ask ourselves, “Are we living in the way we need to live? Are there some things we need to change, or cut out?” The bottom line is that each one of us needs to take time to think about what we are doing — and is it worthwhile?
There is something called the Three Minute Meditation I would like you to try. You can do it by yourself, or with your wife or family and it goes like this: Before you go to bed, look back at the day and ask — what was the highlight of my day? Maybe someone gave you a compliment or sent you a card; then state the highlight of the day. We always do have a highlight. Then thank God for giving you that day.
Then ask yourself, “What was the lowest part of the day I just encountered?” Maybe you were driving and someone ran in front of you, or maybe someone said something that hurt your feelings. We always have a low part of the day. Then we need to ask, “Is there something I need to ask forgiveness for that happened during the low part of my day?” Or, “Do I need to forgive another person for something that was done to me making that the low time of my day?” And then make restitution in some way.
Finally, in the third step we need to look at ourselves and think about tomorrow. “Is some activity coming up tomorrow that I am anticipating or expecting? Is there something I am worried or concerned about?” The important thing is: We are not in this by ourselves. If we always put God in the center of who we are, then we really do not have to worry too much because God is going to lead us, and guide us, to do what we need to do.
I think our prayer this morning should be one of reflection. “Lord, keep us from getting so involved in life that we forget why you gave us the life you gave us. Keep us from getting so involved in living that we forget the purpose of why we are living. Keep us from pursuing things money can buy, and then we forget about the things money can not buy.”
When we look at our own lives and quality time, do we give quality time to those we love? Do we give quality time to those we work with? Do we really listen or are we so much on the treadmill of life that we just continue to go through the motions every day not realizing that things can truly be better.
Do we have a balance in our life? Do we need to do something different? Are we really doing the important things that we should be doing? And is our hospitality and welcoming really from the heart, or is it from the world?
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Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.
TASCAM DR 51 file 0045)