Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The secret of welcoming
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Lk 10,38-42
I must confess it: by reading this page from the Gospel, I always get impressed by Jesus praising Mary because she has chosen a better role than Marta, who, instead of listening to the Master, is busy preparing him a good meal. Since the book of Ecclesiastes would say that there is a time to listen and a time to cook, I would expect a totally different approach by Jesus. Therefore, we must get to a deeper understanding of the meaning of this scene, in order to be aware of its sense. Martha, Mary and Lazarus’s family was one of friends for Jesus. We can therefore assume that he often went and see them so that he could spend some pleasant time with them, for a while putting aside the commitments of his mission: the crowd who were thirsty of the truth, the ill people asking to be healed and the apostles who were almost unable to get the meaning of what was happening. In other moments in the Gospel, Jesus used to retreat alone on a mountain to pray the Father, but that day he evidently needed friendship, human sympathy, maybe wanting to tell the same truth to friends who would listen without asking questions. In this mood, it is easy to understand how Jesus preferred Mary’s more spiritual welcome rather than Martha’s active one. I think that, in this scene from today’s excerpt, Mary could get the real needs of Jesus more deeply. For this reason, he dares reproach Martha affectionately: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her”. He would surely appreciate Martha’s good meal later, but when she urged him to express his thought about her sister, he chose to be honest, as always, even if his honesty was affectionate. Today’s passage enlightens us on the deep meaning of welcome, which is the ability to get the real needs of the people who call for us. You cannot welcome everyone the same way: somebody needs bread, others friendship and counseling. Give us, oh Lord, the sensitivity to welcome every person according to his or her real needs.