Last Sunday gospel of the Good Samaritan..on Wednesday met one of our guests in the Grange for a catch up..she remarked warmly of redecoration of entrance lobby & the inscription on the wall..”what inscription ?” I asked..like priest in gospel last Sunday I have walked by & not noticed.. “..listen carefully my child, to the Master’s instructions, & attend to them with the ears of your heart..” [ prologue ] ..essence of Benedictine & gospel spirituality..in welcoming & serving the guest & the stranger, as Abraham does in our 1st reading, we welcome Christ.. Christ meets Christ in person & in service..
“I beg you if I find favour with you, do not pass your servant by..” ; Lord have mercy “..let me fetch a little bread for you & you shall refresh yourselves before going further..” ; Christ have mercy “..that is why you have come in your servants direction..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..whenever you find two women together, the moment is always pregnant..with child..full of conversation & fruitfulness..with wisdom spontaneity & depth..a short & powerful gospel, so familiar it is too familiar, & we didn’t really listen to it..”we know it”..like a Mum knows her son loves her, but how she savours hearing him tell her the 3 key words 12 times a day..it is presence & voice..Mary & Martha..intimacy & response..prayer & ministry..I worry & fret for poor Martha, seemingly put in her place, in her shoe box, by Jesus as he gives accolade/affirmation to Mary..& she “chose” it..” & you didn’t ..Mary sits there, humble & self effacing?..or inwardly grinning like a Cheshire cat, at hearing the nuisance of a sister well & truly put in her place..& by Jesus..game set & match to Mary & in straight sets..now read it again & allow 2 words to emerge to rebalance story & wisdom of it..Mary sat & listened..Martha was distracted by her ministry of welcome & hospitality..& I’d like to suggest family community & parish life needs both..the quietly reflective & the energetically active..each seasons/inspires the other..at Bamber Bridge 20yrs ago we had an elderly parishioner I took Communion to each week..she had been a primary school teacher all her life, lived on her own & on retirement at Mass daily ..kept her cottage spotless ;her health deteriorated until she was living downstairs in one room with coal fire in some squalor..only thing she kept immaculate, statue of Our Lady & child Jesus..in front of it a thick candle always lit whatever time of day I went..”who it is lit for today Mary?” I would ask..”for Joan a neighbour going to Royal Preston Hospit for tests; for Bill at no 10 whose wife walked out last weekend ; for Mildred Smith’s granddaughter who is taking A levels on Tuesday; for young John next door who has just got his first job”..a Mary by name a Mary by nature, who had been an outstanding Martha & then took up the cross to become a Mary..& try convincing the housebound restrained Mary in Bamber Bridge she has chosen the better part..so what is Luke up to in way he words his gospel?..he writes at a time & at a moment in the life of the emerging faith community where the role & the voice of women was being questioned criticised & suppressed..it was the classic response when insurrection change reform & revolution is spilling out & disturbing boundaries, when the later Church was to state “Roma locuta..causa finita “ Rome has spoken..the matter is closed”..” Mary has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.” The contemplative life of a nun of Stanbrook is to be preferred to active life of a Mercy Sister working/living among young women victims of human trafficking in Kings Cross…really?..& listen to John on same story..our Martha plays central role in drama of raising of Lazarus “now Jesus loved Martha & her sister & Lazarus” she is named first & is introduced as the “beloved” by John the beloved disciple ..the favourite..it is Martha who meets & greets the latecomer Jesus with an expression of faith & then a wonderful discussion about the resurrection..”yes Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God” Martha the model believer..the very profession of faith other 3 gospel writers put onto lips of Peter the rock, John puts onto lips of Martha..wow!..it is in John’s gospel that the real service of women in early faith community is acknowledged & celebrated..not cooking up a high tea in back kitchen but diekonei [servant discipleship]..the Samaritan woman at the well is the first missionary..Mary Magdalen first to see the Risen Christ & commissioned to go to frightened rabbits in upper room to tell & to convince them ..notice no attempt to silence women or restrict them to quiet, behind the scenes, homebound ministries..wow indeed!..”they understood Jesus to commission all Christians, women as well as men, to express their faith in the performance of all manner of diaconal ministries.”[ Sandra Schneider ]..so what do you now think is the “one thing needed” that Jesus seeks from Martha?..& is it the same thing he asks for from Mary? or something different?..from a nun of Stanbrook or a Mercy Sister in KX?..& pray what does he ask for now from you & from me?..one thing.. “perhaps to engage with the text to wrestle with it until finally although wounded, to limp away with a blessing”[ Anne Thurston ] my teacher in feminism & in theology..her limp & my limp..& will you have the faith & honesty to limp away home from this Mass with a blessing?.. [16thSunYrC ;Lk 10;38-42]