Martha my dear

christ-with-mary-and-martha-johann-friedrich-overbeck

Artist Johann Friedrich Overbeck

Poor Martha, I feel for her – I’m pretty sure that most women do. She’s frustrated in today’s Gospel because while she is working her rear end off, her sister Mary is sitting there at Jesus’ feet listening, learning, adoring.

Did you ever notice how often we see rivalries played out in Scripture, even among those who love one another? I am guessing that this struggle between the sisters is not a new phenomenon. This particular struggle always intrigues me though, because so many of us get ourselves in a twist because we feel like we are doing more work than someone else. Also, we tend to want to explore the tale as a binary one, good-bad, black-white, right-wrong, winner-loser. Jesus always has other ways for us to understand everything in ways we do not typically imagine.

It might appear that Jesus declares Mary the winner for choosing “the better portion.” That does not make Martha the loser. What Jesus seems to be offering Martha is an invitation to sit down and spend some time with him, not to admonish her, but to bring her closer.

So many of us suffer from the need to be “doing” something all the time. This summer I have spent more time than usual on my deck reading a book – or doing nothing but contemplate the beautiful world around me. It has been heavenly. Typically I am  filling my days with this and that, having always been a poor budgeter of time, among other things. Busy-ness can seem to quell our anxiety, and I do know that is a big thing for me. Quiet time allows my fears and worries to creep in. Also, due to that poor budgeting of everything, I sometimes fritter time away with busy-ness of a non-essential sort, only to have to dive into the rush of things that need to be done. It is an endless cycle of the white noise of movement. And it keeps me from God.

On top of everything else, we live in a culture based on ever increasing productivity and efficiency. Achieving things is the source of pride, a lack of it a source of shame. Sitting at the feet of the Lord might not seem the best use of time. It might seem otherwise to Jesus however, as he notes to Martha regarding Mary.  Even in church the temptation to “do” more is evident and it seems like a form giving. It is indeed a form of giving, but the trick is to discern the balance of doing and being. That is a tough spot to discover, but one we might all well spend some time seeking out.

For what it is worth, our first reading tells us the story of Abraham and the visitors. As he welcomes them and sits with them, everyone else, his wife Sarah included, is busy in the background, unseen by the guests. This scene offers us an interesting prelude to Mary and Martha, the story of those busy “working” and those who sit at the feet of angels or God. In this tale, it would appear that everyone busily at work is there because Abraham set them in motion. One of the visitors asks about Sarah, and offers a mysterious statement about returning in a year, when she will have born a child.

In the end we are left with our own discernment of our relationship with God and with how we spend our time. Who among us cares to think about how all we have to do in order for God to love us is to simply be… What a thought! Yet that is at the very heart of Luke’s Gospel and the message of Christ. That’s not an order to stop accomplishing things, we all have some kind of work to do. It is however something to hold in heart and mind as we contemplate our relationship to God and to one another.

What choices will we make going forward? Can we sit still and participate in a holy gaze of love, heart and ears open and available to God alone? It is not easy to choose to do this “not-doing” but what might we miss if we stay in the kitchen.

(As I wrote this I kept hearing this Beatles song in my head, so I will include it along with the lyrics. It obviously influenced how I titled the post!)

Martha, my dear
Though I spend my days in conversation, please
Remember me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear

Hold your head up, you silly girl
Look what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Take a good look around you
Take a good look you’re bound to see
That you and me were meant to be
With each other
Silly girl

Hold you’re hand out, you silly girl
See what you’ve done
When you find yourself in the thick of it
Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you
Silly girl

Martha, my dear
You have always been my inspiration
Please, be good to me
Martha, my love
Don’t forget me
Martha, my dear.

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Neighbor

Today’s Gospel from Luke is a familiar story – that of the Good Samaritan. I was well into my adult years before I learned that Samaritans were not upheld with respect by the people of first century Palestine. That’s why every time you hear about a Samaritan or a visit through Samaria in a Gospel, pay attention. That is a big part of what you are being taught by Christ.

It matters that it is not the priest or the Levite who helped the wounded man. The men who are those upholding the “law” keep on going because touching someone would likely have violated the law. There was ritual cleanliness and certain guidelines to follow as with any legal situation, church law or civil law. The Samaritan however, stops to help when he sees another human – a neighbor – in dire need.

Let’s take a quick look at that Continue reading

Feed them yourselves

World Refugee Day Borys Fiodorowicz“Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.” – From ‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children, New York Times, June 21, 2019

Mary Jesus in CageA 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap.“I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,” she said. –From Attorneys: Texas border facility is neglecting migrant kids, AP News

Today we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today’s Gospel is embedded upon my heart. When the disciples were pretty much about to dismiss the crowd because they were in a deserted place and seemed to lack the resources (or the will) to care for them. Jesus said to them:

“Give them some food yourselves.”

Today he might add that toothbrushes, sleep, Continue reading

Hosanna and destiny

Large EDIT Palms for Palm Sunday.jpgEach week at mass we pray these words aloud in song or prayer…

Hosanna, in the highest!

Today the words take on a deeper meaning as we celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

There are studies upon studies to reveal just what lengths humans will go to in order to Continue reading

New thing

EDITIsaiahLilacBud copyHaving attended a 4pm liturgy on Saturday, I heard a good homily, but I was left wanting. After hearing a young woman proclaim the First Reading from Isaiah with such gift and passion, and then to hear another woman proclaim the Second Reading with similar style, I felt so hungry – starved actually – to hear a woman’s preaching voice.

For the record, and to the chagrin of many, I do not support the women’s ordination movement as it exists today. Sorry, that’s another story for another day perhaps. Those of you who actually know me know that this is how I feel, what I believe, others – you will have to take my word for it and maybe I will go into it another time.

Anyway, these women’s proclaiming voices snapped me into a kind of openness and attention that left me vulnerable. Thankfully the homily was OK. The kind of homily an old friend might have described by saying Continue reading

Bring them here to me…

IMG_5747_mappano72-1220x763A friend posted this image on her Facebook page, well – the same image, a different shot. This was taken in a shelter in Mexico, La 72. It is a map that shows migrants the way, along with train tracks and danger zones, as well as shelters. The journey undertaken by immigrants is a desperate and dangerous one. Here is one article, the one where I found this image; it is from Oxfam.

There is that old video (old = May 2018) of the president calling out people as animals. Apparently he was talking about MS-13 gang members. Are they animals? Are Nazis and white supremacists animals? Are serial killers animals? I would have to say no. What I would say is that some people make horrific and heinous choices, undertake vile actions, and choose to behave in evil ways, but are they animals? No, I would not say that ever, because of my faith and my belief in the dignity inherent in all human beings. I cry and rage over those – from MS-13 to Trump and all the others making dark choices, but their dignity remains present whether or not they choose it.

Are we “full?” Not really. Are we broke? Not really, although I suspect that we will financially harmed by the current administration. If I ever hear about “tax and spend Democrats again” I may have a heart attack. We do not have the funds? I’m pretty sure that we could find them if we had the political and moral will to do so – but we lack either virtue as a nation.

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Be merciful, and other thoughts on interfaith life

MercifulThis morning today’s Gospel from Luke offered this message to us… a brief lesson from Jesus on how to live.

The horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand continues to dominate the news. Somehow this one may have touched a new nerve. Locally, the Islamic Center of the Capital District hosted an interfaith prayer service on Sunday, and I was blessed to attend this event. That’s a big part of why today’s Gospel truly hit home. This is how we are meant to live with one another, full stop Continue reading