Reflection: Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Tuesday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


[1st Reading – Gen.18:1-10; Ps.14; 2nd Reading – Col.1:24-28; Gospel – Lk.10:38-42]


Today’s gospel is about two sisters, Martha and Mary. We know very little about them but we do know that they welcomed Jesus into their house. One imagines that Jesus was accompanied by his disciples. Martha was probably the older of the two sisters or else the better known of the two sisters because we are told that Jesus went into “her” house, thus making Mary the younger sister. We are not told about any man living in their house (be he a brother or a husband … or else the house would be his) and therefore it seems that they had no man to take care of them. They were to take care of their own selves …

We are told that while Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, Mary sat down at Jesus’ feet and listened to him speaking. We are not told what Jesus was saying and teaching, we are only told that Jesus was speaking. One sister was listening to him while the other was busily distracted with all the hospitality activities. In a Jewish habitat it is typical for the women to serve the men and the guests. So Mary’s action of “sitting down at the Lord’s feet” was not in line with tradition when instead she should be serving the guests like her sister Martha. This was the reason why Martha made the comment that Mary was leaving all the serving to her.

Jesus was fully aware of what was going on. He knew that Mary should have helped with the serving of the guests. He knew it was not “fair” that all the serving was done by Martha. But Jesus took this opportunity to teach them something. He did not say that one thing is good and the other is bad … He just told Martha that between the two goods, one of them is a better choice … and the one who chooses the better part will not be stopped from doing so.

This is a simple straightforward story and in its simplicity we should find the moral of the story.  Quite often in our own lives, we find ourselves in the situations of Martha and/or Mary. Quite often we worry too much and fret too much about the things that we feel we have to do. We take these things seriously and as a consequence these things become the most important things in our life. Our life becomes cluttered with such things which are not really that important but we perceive them to be most important and in doing so we forget what really are the most important things in life. For instance, when we do sit down to listen to the word of God, do we really understand the true meaning? We are told that Mary chose the better part – being at Jesus’ foot and listened to what Jesus had to say. We are not told if Mary understood Jesus or not, but at least she was there, listening to Him. According to Jesus this seems to be what is needed in life – to listen to what God has to say. Are we ready to be less like Martha (i.e. running about fretting) and instead be more like Mary (i.e. to stop to listen to what He has to tell us)?

“Lord speak, for your servant is ready to listen!


Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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