Two weeks ago, our new pastor delivered his first homily as our new leader. Since I attend to the scriptures when preparing to fill this space each week, I was anxious to hear what Father Greg had to say about the passages from Isaiah, Galatians and Luke. About a minute into Father Greg’s homily, I knew I would not be disappointed.
Father Greg began by asking a musician from the choir to come forward with an instrument. At one Mass, Julie came with her flute. At another, Joe came with his trumpet. At another, Father Greg went to Ruth and the piano. Each time, he asked our choir director what the next hymn would be and then he tried to play it on the instrument at hand. We all had to acknowledge that Father Greg didn’t do very well. However, when the musicians attempted the same hymn, each one played beautifully. At that point, Father Greg noted that it takes practice to hone our talents and to use them well. Father Greg would sound like a musician only if he practiced. Father Greg went on to remind us of what we’d heard in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul told his followers that he’d taken on the ways of Jesus so thoroughly that he bore his scars. Yes, Paul had practiced what Jesus taught so well that he began to look like Jesus. At this point I asked myself, “Wow! How did he come up with that?”
I had no time to answer my question because Father Greg had moved on to the gospel. That Sunday, we read Luke’s chronicle of Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples. Father Greg observed that we likely think Jesus sent his people off to towns everywhere to prepare the way for him. Immediately after I mentally agreed with that assessment, Father Greg insisted that this wasn’t the case. Rather, he said Jesus sent those disciples to our doors to help us to practice using our gifts so that we, too, will become more like Jesus. Once again I asked myself, “Wow! How did he come up with that?”
This time, I didn’t answer my question because Father Greg immediately explained. “Your doorbell rings and some of the disciples are there. This time, it’s your in-laws who’ve come to teach you patience and perhaps forgiveness. They go home and the doorbell rings again. This time, it’s your boss who’s come to teach you humility. The boss leaves and the doorbell rings again. This time, it’s your spouse and your children and your friends. They’ve come to teach you love.” And on it went until Father Greg predicted that the doorbell will ring one last time. “This time,” he said, “It will be Jesus. He’ll see that you’ve done an amazing job working on your gifts and using them for others. This is when Jesus will say, ‘Wow! You look just like me!’”
I know. Two weeks have passed since my pastor shared all of this and you’re wondering why I’m repeating his homily now. The reason is simple. Luke’s gospel (10:38-42) tells us that Father Greg’s prediction that Jesus will one day come to our doors actually occurred. Unfortunately for those who answered, there was a bit of confusion regarding how to respond.
Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. They loved Jesus very much and did their best to live and to love as Jesus asked. When Jesus arrived at their door, both sisters were overwhelmed with joy. Martha was the detail person who saw to it that everything was perfect for this visit. Though Jesus had arrived, Martha continued her flurry of activity. The local people prided themselves in offering hospitality to those who graced their homes and Martha took this responsibility to heart. It was Mary who couldn’t take her eyes off of Jesus from the moment he arrived. She didn’t want to waste a millisecond of this visit. As soon as Jesus made himself comfortable, Mary sat at his feet where she remained for the duration. When poor Martha realized her dilemma, she complained to Jesus. Martha likely expected Jesus to order Mary to help her. As it happened, Jesus stunned Martha with his response: “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.”
Though I certainly sympathize with Martha who was simply trying to welcome Jesus with the appropriate fanfare, I also understand the reasons Mary nestled at Jesus’ feet. She loved Jesus and his teachings and she’d done her best to live accordingly. When Jesus arrived at her door, Mary couldn’t help taking advantage of the moment to embrace Jesus. I’d like to think that Martha took Jesus’ comment to heart and that she joined her sister in enjoying Jesus’ company. I’d also like to think that my pastor is correct about Jesus’ appearance at our doors. When the time comes, may we all have the sense -and the heart- of Mary to embrace the moment and to embrace Jesus forever.
©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved