Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, July 18, 2010:
First Reading: Genesis 18:1-10a
First Reading (Semi-cont.): Amos 8:1-12
Psalm: Psalm 15
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 52
Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Ah, the Mary and Martha story, another story that's familiar to many of us who have been going to church through the years. It's one of those stories that provokes howls of rage from people. Like the story of the Prodigal Son, it may trip our "That's not FAIR!!!" switch. It's easy to see how the Good Samaritan is the model for our behavior. The Mary and Martha story prickles us more.
Many of us were probably raised to be the Martha. I have a friend who won't let herself even exercise until her household chores are done, so engrained is the idea of "work first, play later" into her psyche--unlike some of us, who see exercise as one of the daily chores that must be done before we can play.
Think about the last time that someone visited you. If you're like many of us, you spent the days and weeks before the visit getting ready: cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, restoring order. By the time your guests arrived, you may have been too exhausted from getting ready for them to be fully present.
That's the story we see in this week's Gospel. Martha scurries around so much that she can't be present for Jesus. How often are our current lives similar? We often get so consumed by the chores of our daily life that we neglect to notice the Sacred in our midst.
Keep in mind that even though the story revolves around women, men are not exempt from this paradigm. All humans must wrestle with the question of how to balance the chores that are necessary to sustain life with the spiritual nourishment that we need so desperately. Unfortunately, often the chores win.
I can hear some of us shrieking by now: "Yes, but those chores must be done!" Really? Are you sure? What would happen if you didn't vacuum this week? What would happen if you wore your clothes an extra time or two before laundering them? What would happen if you surrendered to the dust?
Jesus chastises Martha for her busyness. It's a story many of us, with our increasingly hectic lives, need to hear again--maybe every day.
We need to be reminded to stay alert. Busyness is the drug that many of us use to dull our senses. But in our busyness, we forget what's really important. We forget to focus on Christ and living the way he commanded us.
Give up one chore this week, and return to the Gospel. Notice that Jesus never--NEVER--focuses on the household chores. Jesus doesn't say, "Blessed are those who keep a clean house, for those have already possessed the Kingdom of God." You may think that Jesus said, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." Jesus did not.
All those chores keep you away from your earthly relationships. Jesus called on us to care for the poor and the dispossessed, not the dusty objects that clutter our houses. All of our busyness takes our focus away from God. God will not appear with white gloves to assess our spiritual progress by way of household upkeep. The assessment of our spiritual progress will focus on much more serious issues than those.