Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Martha and Mary – Luke 10:38-42 – Image Credit: JESUS MAFA. Martha and Mary, public domain via from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Gn 18:1-10a
Col 1:24-28
Lk 10:38-42

Contemplation: The Importance of Listening

Last Sunday we reflected on the Good Samaritan who acted with compassion on behalf of a person in need. Today we look at a woman who understood the importance of taking time to be quiet and listen to what God is asking of us. These are two sides of one coin – action and contemplation.

The gospel tells the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is pictured as the person of action as she prepares the meal for her guests. We know Jesus always traveled with a crowd. You can imagine the anxiety Martha experienced as she tried to have everything ready for all the guests. These were not the days of ovens or microwaves! Everything would be prepared by hand and for warm food there would be a fire.

As she’s working she becomes frustrated because she needs help only to find her sister sitting quietly by Jesus listening to his every word.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Jesus is not saying that Martha’s work is unimportant. He knows he will soon enjoy the fruits of Martha’s labor but he also knows that at this particular time Mary needs to be quiet, reflective and hear his words. 

This is true of all of us. We need to use our time, treasure and talents to be productive members of our families and society. There are also times we need to step back and take time for ourselves to renew and refresh our very beings.

One of the best ways to do this is to take time for quiet and contemplation. In our quiet we should be open to God speaking to us. This can be as simple as remembering a word or phrase that made us feel good. It might be something we read that prompts us to want to be a better person. It might be an intuition that tells us to call our sick relative. We can respond at the end of our quiet time with a brief prayer asking God to guide us and continue to love us.

You might say I don’t have time for this. Two examples may help. Sr. Jose Hobday suggested that when we need to use the bathroom we should remain there for a few extra minutes and use that time for contemplation. Another woman shared that every evening after the family meal and clean-up were complete she would go into her car in the garage and sit quietly for a minimum of fifteen minutes to be quiet with her God.

We can and should find time to be quiet with our God. Action is important but contemplation is equally important. There is a Mary and Martha in each of us. Let’s do justice to both parts of us.

How comfortable are you taking quiet time for yourself? 

How can you become more attuned to your need for quiet time, prayer and reflection?

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