09Oct 09 October. Tuesday, Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians (1:13-24)

Paul persecuted the church but is converted, then goes to meet Peter in Jerusalem

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 139)

R.: Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you. (R./)

For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation. (R./)

Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
and moulded in the depths of the earth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke (10:38-42)

Jesus defends Mary’s listening, while Martha is busy with hospitality

Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”


Moderating our activism

Good intentions can lead to over-activity and lack of reflection, but the Gospel defends human activity and good works as essential companions to faith. Today’s readings strike healthy balance between contemplation and action, since each of us reflects both Martha and Mary, as well as Paul and Peter. Each of them can serve as an icon for aspects of our own character. Seeing them as iconic does not deny their individual reality but enshrines Paul’s view that “everything in the Scriptures was written for our instruction” (Rom 15:4).

In Galatians, Paul emerges as a man of action, urging and arguing like one living in the eye of the storm. His vocation was not to spend his life prayerfully in the desert but rather to “spread among the gentiles the good news of Jesus.” Martha, too, fits the pattern of many good, active people in the church. She is like others in Luke’s account, people who threw parties, beginning with Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (4:39) and including the father of the prodigal son (15:22-24), Zacchaeus the tax collector (19:5-6) and Jesus’ own preparations for the Last Supper (22:7-13). Silent contemplation is the exception, not the rule, in the Old and New Testament.

Still, the quieter character of Martha’s sister Mary is also a valid option. Jesus says it clearly, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better portion.” One might say Jesus was commending the contemplative spirit that should exist in Martha and in each of us. It is not good to be so active as to be anxious and stressed. Then, we are always in need to be reminded of the secret, inner vision of our lives.

The “better portion,” praised by Jesus in no ways makes the other unimportant or unnecessary; it keeps our activity in touch with spirit and soul, direction and wisdom, love and concern. We each need to combine aspects of both Martha and Mary.

Two sisters to treasure

It is clear that Jesus welcomed the warm hospitality he experienced in the houses of his friends, as when Martha welcomed him to her house. But he noticed that his visit was causing Martha more anxiety than joy; so he says to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things.’ If we fret and fuss we can turn a welcome into a chore. From the ‘agency’ point of view, Mary seems the more retiring of the two women. The house is called Martha’s house, and Mary is simply referred as Martha’s sister. Yet, this more retiring sister received Jesus in a way that was more to his liking. Rather than becoming harassed like Martha, she simply embraced the guest with joy, then sat there to  listen to him.

Jesus appreciated the special attention Mary gave him. Often in Luke’s gospel the marginal people are the ones who respond best to Jesus — and have most to teach us. On this occasion, Martha had something to learn from Mary, as we all do. Martha was too anxious to feed Jesus, when, in reality, it was he who wanted to nourish both her and the others with his word. What the Lord wants from us right now is just to sit and listen, letting feed us with his word and his presence.


(Saints Denis and Companions, martyrs)

Denis came to France from Rome in the middle of the 3rd century and became the first bishop of Paris. He was martyred (beheaded) with two of his clergy during the Decian persecution of Christians, shortly after 250 AD.

(Saint John Leonardi)

Giovanni Leonardi (1541-1609) was an Italian priest and the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He became a strong figure in the Counter-Reformation and worked with this group to spread
devotion to Our Lady, to the Forty Hours and to frequent reception of the Eucharist.

(Bl. John Henry Newman)

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) from London, England, was a scholarly Anglican cleric and preacher in Oxford, a leader of the high-church “Oxford Movement” which wished to return the Church of England to forms of worship traditional in earlier times. In 1845 he left the Church of England and was received into the Catholic Church where he was later made cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He was instrumental in founding the Catholic University of Ireland, and wrote an idealistic work on the Idea of a University. Newman’s other writings including his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, The Grammar of Assent and the popular hymn “Lead, Kindly Light.” He wanted lay people to be involved any public discussion of religion and morals and promoted the idea of consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine.

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