Saturday, July 29, 2017

We Will Heed and Do

Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Exodus 24:7

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." Luke 10:40-42


Another Saturday, another woman saint to lead us by example.  Last week, it was Mary Magdalene.  Today, St. Martha of Bethany, half of the indomitable sister-pair with Mary to provide lessons in servant-leaders, obedience, and priority setting.

Setting priorities to follow the Lord was established as the foundation in the first reading from Exodus.  Not a bad example for a great talk on Ideal for Day One of a Cursillo Weekend experience.  The people pledge that they will follow as commanded.  However, we know, that the people will betray their promise and worship the golden calf. 

Mary and Martha take two authentic yet opposite approaches to serving the Lord.  One is the better path…the path marked by quiet, contemplative listening. Even though Mary has left Martha with all the opus of holy hospitality, Jesus refuses to rebuke Mary for heeding and doing what he commands. Mary embodies the unfulfilled promise of the Israelites. Martha embodies the pressures they and we face in life – pressures that divert us from the path we intend to travel.

Martha atones for her distraction when Jesus returns to Bethany to stand beside the gravesite of her dead brother Lazarus.  Mary sat at home but Martha went to meet him.  She then invites her sister to join them – moving from hospitality to evangelization – bringing companions closer to Christ. It was only after the death of her brother that Martha escaped her preoccupation with other takes and exhibits her faith.

This is not unlike the atonement experienced by Mr. Glenn Holland in his movie epic.  Holland (played masterfully by Richard Dreyfuss) is a frustrated composer who initially finds fulfillment as a music teacher.  However, that fulfillment is threatened by the challenge of raising a deaf son. 

Holland attempts to escape his responsibilities by plunging himself into his teaching, his unfinished symphony and potentially being tempted to have an affair with a talented student. Fulfillment only comes after he returns to his focus on his family after these psychological diversions from obedience to his commitments. 

Among his sins of omission/commission are “seeing and not seeing” and “hearing and not hearing.” Holland was very Martha-like. She saw the Lord but at first did not pay attention to what was happening around her because she was wrapped up in her hospitality.
Holland exhibits an inability (and unwillingness) to see and hear his son until his son confronts him with the reality of his neglect.  Maybe that is partially due to his disappointment – the musician cannot perform for his own son who ironically was named for the great jazz performer John Coltrane.

Mr. Holland also experiences atonement and a resurrection of sorts. It was only in the “death” of Mr. Holland's career that his love of Cole and the unfinished symphony came to life. The touching reconciliation comes when Cole is in the audience “listening” to the performance of “The American Symphony” by Glenn Holland.  (If you are an easy “cry-er, enjoy this scene.  If not, it will make you one. I could watch this forever.)

Martha could be the patron saint of distractions and a key figure in modern life. Despite having the good fortune to be a personal friend of Jesus, at first, she did not realize what gift was placed right before her. According to one essay, Jesus came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at the time of their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death.

Imagine someone knocking on your door with the message Martha bears: “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” What is distracting you from the message until you can say, "All that the LORD has said, I will heed and do."

Martha is actually the patron of Housewives and Domestic workers because she willingly served Jesus.  Ask St. Martha to help you set aside your distractions because “the teacher is here and He is asking for you” to serve somebody. You’re gonna’ have to serve somebody.

Image by Noah Pascua Gutierrez (Philippines):

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