POPE FRANCIS ON THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 17 July 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel of this Sunday’s Liturgy presents us with a lively domestic scene with Martha and Mary, two sisters who extend their hospitality to Jesus in their home (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Martha immediately sets about welcoming the guests, whereas Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. Then Martha turns to the Master and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we would tend to agree with her. Yet Jesus answers her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). This is a surprising answer. But Jesus overturns our way of thinking many times. So, let us ask ourselves why the Lord, while appreciating Martha’s generous care, says that Mary’s behaviour is to be preferred.
Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be this: first duty, then pleasure. In effect, hospitality is not composed of fine words, but demands that you put your hand to the stove, that everything necessary is done so the guest feels welcome. Jesus is well aware of this. And indeed, he acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then. Mary had intuited that there is a “better part” that must be accorded first place. Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this “better part”? It is listening to Jesus’ words. The Gospel says Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying” (v. 39). Note: she did not listen while standing, doing other things, but she sat at Jesus’ feet. She understood that he is not like other guests. At first sight it seems that he has come to receive, because he needs food and lodging, but in reality, the Master came to give himself to us through his word.
The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: Jesus’ word is the better part, that Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after. This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus. It must be enlivened by his Spirit. Otherwise, it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism.
Brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of this summer vacation time to stop and listen to Jesus. Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find free time to meditate. For many people the rhythm of life is frenetic and wearisome. Summertime can be valuable also for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel. And this lets us enter into this dynamic of Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our life, my life, is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much. In particular, let us ask ourselves: When I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God? At times we begin the day automatically, we start doing things … like hens. No, We must start the day by first of all looking to the Lord, taking his Word, briefly, but let this be the inspiration for the day. If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind, the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.
May the Virgin Mary teach us to choose the better part, which will never be taken from us.
Saint Peter’s Square
16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C, 21 July 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage Luke the Evangelist narrates Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters (cf. Lk 10:38-42). They receive him, and Mary sits at his feet to listen to him; she leaves what she was doing in order to be close to Jesus: she does not want to miss any of his words. Everything is to be set aside when he comes to visit us in our lives; his presence and his words come before all else.
The Lord always surprises us: when we truly focus on listening to him, clouds disappear, doubts give way to truth, fears to serenity, and life’s various situations find the right placement. When the Lord comes, he always puts things in order, even us.
In this scene of Mary of Bethany at Jesus’ feet, Saint Luke shows the prayerful attitude of the believer, who is able to be in the Teacher’s presence to listen to him and be in harmony with him. It means pausing a few minutes during the day to gather yourself in silence, to make room for the Lord who ‘is passing’ and to find the courage to stay somewhat ‘on the sidelines’ with him, in order to return later with serenity and strength, to everyday matters. Commending the conduct of Mary, who “has chosen the good portion” (v. 42), Jesus seems to repeat to each of us: “Do not allow yourselves to be overwhelmed by things to do, but first and foremost listen to the Lord’s voice, in order to properly carry out the tasks that life assigns to you”.
Then there is the other sister, Martha. Saint Luke says that it is she who receives Jesus (cf. v. 38). Perhaps Martha was the older of the two sisters; we do not know. But surely this woman had the charism of hospitality. Indeed, while Mary listened to Jesus, Martha is completely caught up in many services. That is why Jesus says to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (v. 41). With these words he certainly does not condemn the attitude of service, but rather the stress with which one lives at times. We too share Saint Martha’s worries and, after her example, we recommend ensuring — in our families and in our communities — that one may experience the sense of welcome, of fraternity, so that each one may feel ‘at home’, especially the little ones and the poor when they knock at our door.
Thus, today’s Gospel passage reminds us that the wisdom of the heart lies precisely in knowing how to combine these two elements: contemplation and action. Martha and Mary indicate the path to us. If we want to savour life with joy, we must associate these two approaches: on the one hand, ‘being at the feet’ of Jesus, in order to listen to him as he reveals to us the secret of every thing; on the other, being attentive and ready in hospitality, when he passes and knocks at our door, with the face of a friend who needs a moment of rest and fraternity. This hospitality is needed.
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, give us the grace to love and serve God and brethren with the hands of Martha and the heart of Mary, so that, in always listening to Christ, we may be artisans of peace and hope. And this is interesting: with these two approaches we will be artisans of peace and hope.
Saint Peter’s Square
16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C, 17 July 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel the Evangelist Luke writes about Jesus who, on the way to Jerusalem, enters a village and is welcomed into the home of two sisters: Martha and Mary (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Both welcome the Lord, but they do so in different ways. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to his words (cf. v. 39), whereas Martha is completely caught up in preparing things; at a certain point she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). Jesus responds to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42).
In bustling about and busying herself, Martha risks forgetting — and this is the problem — the most important thing, which is the presence of the guest, Jesus in this case. She forgets about the presence of the guest. A guest is not merely to be served, fed, looked after in every way. Most importantly he ought to be listened to. Remember this word: Listen! A guest should be welcomed as a person, with a story, his heart rich with feelings and thoughts, so that he may truly feel like he is among family. If you welcome a guest into your home but continue doing other things, letting him just sit there, both of you in silence, it is as if he were of stone: a guest of stone. No. A guest is to be listened to. Of course, Jesus’ response to Martha — when he tells her that there is only one thing that needs to be done — finds its full significance in reference to listening to the very word of Jesus, that word which illuminates and supports all that we are and what we do. If we go to pray, for example, before the Crucifix, and we talk, talk, talk, and then we leave, we do not listen to Jesus. We do not allow him to speak to our heart. Listen: this is the key word. Do not forget! And we must not forget that in the house of Martha and Mary, Jesus, before being Lord and Master, is a pilgrim and guest. Thus, his response has this significance first and foremost: “Martha, Martha why do you busy yourself doing so much for this guest even to the point of forgetting about his presence? — A guest of stone! — Not much is necessary to welcome him; indeed, only one thing is needed: listen to him — this is the word: listen to him — be brotherly to him, let him realize he is among family and not in a temporary shelter.
Understood in this light, hospitality, which is one of the works of mercy, is revealed as a truly human and Christian virtue, a virtue which in today’s world is at risk of being overlooked. In fact, nursing homes and hospices are multiplying, but true hospitality is not always practised in these environments. Various institutions are opened to care for many types of disease, of loneliness, of marginalization, but opportunities are decreasing for those who are foreign, marginalized, excluded, from finding someone ready to listen to them: because they are foreigners, refugees, migrants. Listen to that painful story. Even in one’s own home, among one’s own family members, it might be easier to find services and care of various kinds rather than listening and welcome. Today we are so taken, by excitement, by countless problems — some of which are not important — that we lack the capacity to listen. We are constantly busy and thus we have no time to listen. I would like to ask you, to pose a question to you, each one answer in your own heart: do you, husband, take time to listen to your wife? And do you, woman, take time to listen to your husband? Do you, parents, take time, time to “waste”, to listen to your children? or your grandparents, the elderly? — “But grandparents always say the same things, they are boring…” — But they need to be listened to! Listen. I ask that you learn to listen and to devote more of your time. The root of peace lies in the capacity to listen.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of listening and of service and of attentive care, teach us to be welcoming and hospitable to our brothers and our sisters.
St Peter’s Square
16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C, 21 July 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday we continue reading the 10 chapters of the Evangelist Luke. The passage today is that on Martha and Mary. Who are these two women? Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, are the relatives and faithful disciples of the Lord, who lived in Bethany. St Luke describes them in this way: Mary, at the feet of Jesus, “listened to his teaching”, while Martha was burdened with much serving (cf. Lk 10:39-40). Both welcome the Lord on his brief visit, but they do so differently. Mary sets herself at the feet of Jesus to listen but Martha lets herself become absorbed in preparing everything, and so much so that she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40). And Jesus answers scolding her sweetly: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing” (v. 41).
What does Jesus mean? What is this one thing that we need? First of all, it is important to understand that this is not about two contradictory attitudes: listening to the word of the Lord, contemplation, and practical service to our neighbour. These are not two attitudes opposed to one another, but, on the contrary, they are two essential aspects in our Christian life; aspects that can never be separated, but are lived out in profound unity and harmony. Why then was Martha scolded, even if kindly, by Jesus? Because she considered only what she was doing to be essential; she was too absorbed and worried by the things “to do”. For a Christian, works of service and charity are never detached from the principle of all our action: that is, listening to the Word of the Lord, to be — like Mary — at the feet of Jesus, with the attitude of a disciple. And that is why Martha was scolded.
In our Christian life too, dear brothers and sisters, may prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother — the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty — is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ. When time is not set aside for dialogue with him in prayer, we risk serving ourselves and not God present in our needy brother and sister. St Benedict sums up the kind of life that indicated for his monks in two words: ora et labora, pray and work. It is from contemplation, from a strong friendship with the Lord that the capacity is born in us to live and to bring the love of God, his mercy, his tenderness, to others. And also our work with brothers in need, our charitable works of mercy, lead us to the Lord, because it is in the needy brother and sister that we see the Lord himself.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Mother of listening and of service, to teach us to meditate in our hearts on the Word of her Son, to pray faithfully, to be ever more attentive in practical ways to the needs of our brothers and sisters.
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