16th Sunday C
Sunday 17th July 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Now it happened that as they were on their way, they entered a certain village and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. This woman had a sister named Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Martha was overwhelmed by all the serving. She came up and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself. Tell her to get up and help!’ Jesus answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and in an uproar over many things, but only one thing really is needed. Your sister has chosen that good part and it will not be wrested from her.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Lord, who shall dwell in your tent, on the mountain of your holiness?
Those who walk uprightly, act justly
and speak the truth from the heart.
Those who do not vilify others, or do evil to them,
nor reproach those around them.
Those who hate vileness, but honour those who respect God.
Those who speak the truth,
whatever the cost to themselves.
Those who loan generously
charging no interest.
Those who will not be bribed
to bring down the innocent.
Such people as these stand forever.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, let me hear the Word of love that you address to me in each moment, in each prayer, in each call to serve. Hearing that Word may I let it resound in my life and readily serve. Save me from an over-weening sense of self-importance when I serve but let me realise that all I do is done in response to you.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
The story of Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary is usually told as a discrete incident and much discussion is given to the contrast between Martha and Mary. Prayer/ work, stillness/activity are contrasted as though they are in competition with each other. But if the story is understood within the Gospel as a whole, a different understanding can be gained.
Hospitality is a recurrent theme in this Gospel. In the coming of Jesus we are offered the hospitality of God, which we are to offer in turn to others. How is this to be done? The parable of the Good Samaritan, which immediately proceeds this Sunday’s Gospel, shows us how. The Samaritan offers the model of service: generous and free, given without complaint and with no sense of self importance. In the light of this parable, we look again at the words of Jesus to Martha. The ‘worry’ and ‘fret’ used in our English version are weak translations of stronger Greek verbs. Martha’s ‘worry’ should really be translated as ‘anxiety’ and ‘fret’, ‘turbaze’, describes a person in an uproar, blazing with turbulence, so to speak. Is this service or self-service? Martha wants all to know how much she is doing. They probably could hear her at work. She barges in and starts bossing Jesus around, dragging him into a family quarrel: this is no way to treat a guest. So how much of Martha’s emotional state actually contributed to her sense of being overwhelmed and overlooked?
When we enter into an act of care or service, we are accepting the ‘word’ of God into our lives as if we are sitting at the feet of Jesus. The demands of hospitality were as much a ‘word’ in Martha’s life as the words Jesus was speaking to Mary. The challenge for all of us is to accept the call that we have been given in our lives, which often comes in the many and diverse demands of daily life, as a word of God in our lives. Then when we do all, graciously with love, we know we have chosen a ‘good part’.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Action/contemplation, work/prayer, activity/quiet. Many discussions based on this Sunday’s Gospel seemed focused on these dualities but this either/or mentality misses the very point that Jesus is making. The coming of God in human flesh is the radical affirmation that nothing that happens in our experience is remote from the touch of grace and therefore the reign of God. The question of whether one ought to be praying or working, active or contemplative is irrelevant to the one who aspires to discover the presence of God in each moment.
The real issue is how we carry ourselves in each moment. If every moment is open to the divine, the only barrier to realising this comes from within. It is our personal liabilities, our sinfulness (and our sinfulness only) that darkens our ability to hear the Word of God spoken to us in each and every situation. It is not that we don’t have the time for prayer; rather it will be issues like anger or selfishness that stall the movement of prayer. It is not that we don’t have the opportunities or the time for loving service, it will be attitudes of insensitivity, pride or laziness, which stalls us from caring for others.
In truth, if we live each moment as a gift of God, a certain peace comes upon us that enables us to discern how to act and not be overwhelmed, or how to be still and not be bored. Indeed, open to God in each moment, we will be able to love with the heart of Mary and serve with the hands of Martha.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
‘Listen with both eyes’ is a piece of advice Martha needed to hear. She wanted Jesus as her guest, she wanted to serve, she wanted to do her best. But she wanted to do all this, her way, on her terms.
But what about the needs of her guest? Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Could she not see that the set in his face showed something was up? The serious baiting by the religious authorities had begun. Could she not see the pain? The disciples were still thick as two brick about his mission. Could she not see that what Jesus most needed, most wanted was to be listened to? He, the Word of God, had come into the world with the message of life…and that world was rejecting him. Here, at his feet in the position of a disciple, was Mary soaking up all he had to say…listening with both eyes and all her heart, giving him the one thing necessary: to be listened to.
Imagine if Martha had ‘listened with both eyes. She would have delighted in what Mary was doing, seeing how much it meant to him. She probably would have simplified her wonderful plans for entertaining, thinking, ‘Well, he needs to get off and have a few hours extra sleep.’ And when all was over, she would have asked Mary, ‘What did he say?’ Mary, then, in love and quiet would have shared the words she had received. They would not have been rivals for Jesus’ attention but united in love of him.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- Joachim Bueckelaer’s picture of A Kitchen View in the Home of Martha and Mary shows a wealthy, and unrealistic, view of food being prepared. (Click red text)
- This picture by Velazquez Diego Christ in the House of Martha shows a stern woman, scolding the servant who looks as though she is about to cry. In the background Martha is upbraiding Jesus and Mary. (Click red text)
- In contrast, tension is almost completely absent from this painting of the scene by Johannes Vermeer.
- A Stained glass version of this scene. (Click red text)
- Sculpture of Mary and Martha by Annette Everett. These two intertwining figures represent the Mary and Martha in each of us. (Click red text)
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on how attentive you are to the Word being spoken to you in the various events of life. Aim to appreciate how Jesus is speaking to you when you are called to simple acts of service.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Take some time to think about how you view your life of prayer and your life of service. Are they in tension or can you see them like two sisters helping each other to hear the Word of God?
Take some time to focus on your attitudes when you are serving. Do you find in yourself the very natural tendency to draw attention to what you do and want to be praised constantly? What could happen if you viewed service as a ‘hearing of the Word’?
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Open my eyes, Lord by Jessie Manibusan
- I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say by Horatius Bonar
- I Received the Living God Anonymous