16th Sunday - homily
The other night, I took our summer seminarian, Jim, out to dinner for all the work he did for Fun in the Son. We went to Downtown Silver Spring and the placed was packed! There were people everywhere. The streets and sidewalks were filled with people, restaurant, bars…it was quite impressive. Jim and I were wondering why it was so crowded, and then we realized it was because of the release of the new Harry Potter book. There is a Borders bookstore, and people were gathering for the midnight release.
There were people young and old there who were so excited about the new book. People were walking behind us, talking about what the plotlines would be, what would happen with the different characters, and all this stuff. Now, I’m not anti-Harry Potter, but I was thinking to myself, ‘my gosh, this is all for a children’s fiction book!’ If only we could have the same excitement and zeal from our people about the Sunday readings! Wouldn’t it be great if people were walking around saying, “whoa, Martha and Mary, can you believe what happened when Jesus came to their house?” Or, “how about when Jesus said, ‘Martha, Martha, Martha’?” Anyway, just a thought…
As I was praying over today’s readings, thoughts of my trip to Calcutta seven years ago came to mind. Calcutta is a tough place to be! It is so hot, loud, often doesn’t smell very good, and can be just unclean. Talk about a place with a lot of people! Well, a few weeks into my trip, I got postcards for family and friends. I wrote to each of them, “It’s hot, loud, smelly, and dirty. Having a great time. Wish you were here!”
The experience of Calcutta is so different from our experience here; it truly overwhelmed me. I was able to get through the culture shock to pick up on at least a few things by way of insight. One of them was that the poor there have nothing…absolutely nothing. It is juts them and God. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that “there is only one thing you need”. For the poor in Calcutta, everything else has been taken away from them, so they definitely realize that all they need is God. Their idea of “needs” are far different from ours. They need food to survive each day, as the kids begging for food on the streets showed me. What are our “needs”? We need the newest Harry Potter book or cultural trend. We need the biggest house or nicest car. We need the newest Wii system.
Mary reminds me of the poor in Calcutta and Martha reminds me of us. Mary has only one need: to be in the presence of God who is love. Martha is busy with so many things and has so many needs. She might think she needs to have a clean house so that Jesus and others will think she is a good hostess. She might need to have the respect of others, so she works so hard to keep a good image and reputation. All of her needs have made her so anxious. She is a good woman who proclaims Jesus as the Christ, but may not even be paying attention to Jesus when she is in his presence. Is there our experience at Mass? Are we thinking about all of our needs, and don’t pay attention to the prayers and readings?
We look at the example of Martha’s sister, Mary. She realizes that she is in the presence of God. She is at his feet, and listening to his every word. Jesus says that there is only one thing we need. If you ask me, the one thing we need is love. God is the source of love. Mary recognizes this, and that Christ can fill all of her needs.
We have the same opportunity with the Eucharist. Like Mary, we are at the feet of Jesus at every Mass, and should be listening to his every word in the prayers and readings. We are in the presence of Love. We become filled with his love, and then bring that love to those we meet.