Genesis 18: 1-10; Col 1: 24-28; Luke 10: 38-42
When we hear the story about Martha and Mary, knowing that it too has been beat to death over the years, we must be mindful of the fact that it immediately follows the story of the Good Samaritan that we heard last week. If we don’t, we have a tendency to otherwise project a lot of our own stuff on these two sisters and create a sibling rivalry which most likely was never the intention of the gospel writer Luke. That’s us and not necessarily them in this story we hear.
So the context of the story falls with the good samaritan. Be mindful of the priest and the levite in that story who cross the road when the guy is dying whom they can’t touch. It doesn’t make them bad people. They aren’t even necessarily wrong, according to the law. The same can be said about Martha. She’s not bad nor is she wrong. All of them have a particular role that they play that they have taken on as their entire identity. There’s a lack of authenticity to them because they don’t know themselves deeper than their role in society. The priest and levite had a role that prevented them from seeing the human being on the side or the road and even Martha, a woman who’s responsibility at that time is to be hospitable to the guest, Jesus, can’t see beyond it as she watches her sister Mary sit at the feet of Jesus. None of them are bad. They just can’t see beyond it. They can’t necessarily see people as people.
It is the consistent problem we have as human beings. It’s one of the consistent problems we have in our city, country, and world. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and claim to love who we want to love. We see color. We see sexuality. We see authority figures. We see all these things but not the person behind it all. All of this is what Jesus is trying to break through and lead to conversion in people’s lives. It truly is the suffering that Paul speaks of in today’s second reading and maybe the hardest thing we go through as human beings when we’re called to let go of all our roles and sit naked at the feet of Jesus and still loved. It’s the story of the good Samaritan! It has nothing to do with being a Samaritan and nothing to do with the role that Martha is upset about. And why? Because she’s looking for something more in life as well. Deep down she’s got to know that there’s more to her as well.
Then there’s Abraham and Sarah in the first reading today from Genesis. What happens when the visitors come in sight of Abraham? He immediate falls into his role as host. He goes in and makes sure Sarah does the same. There’s work to be done. But all along these visitors weren’t there for a cooked meal or anything else. They were messengers from God. They were here to deliver the news that Abraham and Sarah had waited years to hear. But in that moment, they weren’t ready. They were caught up in their appropriate roles and it isn’t until they begin to let their guard down on caring for the visitors that they could hear the news of the annunciation of their son Isaac.
When we begin to believe that all we are is the role we have been chosen for and can’t see life beyond it, and for that matter, other people for who they are, we will begin to find ourselves crossing the street and getting all worked up like Martha in today’s gospel. Yet, we often choose to live our lives this way and fail, over and over again, to see people as people. Heck, for that matter, to even see ourselves in that way. The world doesn’t need more people in roles and believing all that.That’s the suffering Paul speaks of even likens it to labor pains later in this reading because it’s so hard to let it go and see beyond it all. The world, this city and country, needs people who see people and can empathize with them. That’s the Mary part of ourselves and the good Samaritan part of ourselves. But that requires us to make space in our lives for the Lord and to sit at his feet so that he may transform our hearts, our eyes, and our ears to be like him.
We have a tendency to react to everything and reacting often comes from the roles we have played and our learned response, like Abraham, rather than seeing it as an invitation to go deeper in our own lives and to see people as people. It’s what the world needs more than anything in the face of so much violence, hatred, judgment, and all the rest. We pray today, that like Mary, we may find the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and be moved by his voice leading us to deeper places within that gives us life to hear and see as Jesus, to emphasize as Jesus, but most especially, to love as Jesus loved and continues to love us. It makes us more authentic and allows us to meet people where they are at and to love them as brother and sister.