July 29, 2013


Readings at Mass: Monday of 17th Week of Ordinary Time

> Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Martha, the sister of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead (John 11), and Mary, who chose "the better part" by sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). In the Gospel reading at today's Mass the Church gives us the option of reading one of these two stories. The famous account in Luke 10 places Saint Martha busy in the kitchen while her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. This story has many interpretations, the most common reminding us of the balance between the contemplative and active lives, listening to God and serving God.

Therein, Fr. Robert Baron has a more detailed understanding of Luke 10 explained to us two weeks ago through his audio sermon. There, he reminds us of the culture two thousand years ago. Back then teachers would often sit as they taught. In fact, even today every Catholic Cathedral has a special chair in the sanctuary where only the Bishop sits. Why? Because it represents the chair where the official teacher of the Faith sits. For us to find Jesus in the posture of sitting tells us that Jesus was teaching.

Two thousand years ago the Jewish culture was very different from the culture here in the U.S. or in the West in general. Essentially, men and women had very different "roles" in society. We see this throughout the Gospel. For example, Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-42). What's unique about Jesus' conversation with her isn't just his speaking to a Samaritan (which was taboo), but that Jesus was speaking to a woman in public. Semitic culture had clear boundaries of what women did and what men did. In fact, when the Jews worshipped at the local synagogue women weren't allowed in. It was the men alone who entered the synagogue, the women listened through a grill that separated the two.

With this clear cultural boundary between men and women as the backdrop you can certainly understand Martha's flurry as she sees Mary doing the unthinkable: sitting literally at the feet of Jesus. And, with that as the background, we can certainly understand Jesus' 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." (Luke 10:41-42)

So, what's the better part? Mary has chosen to listen Jesus. Mary doesn't want to simply watch Jesus, she wants to follow Jesus. She doesn't simply want to watch Jesus, disengaged from the person of Christ, she wants to get close to Him ... to hear Him, to see Him, to follow Him closely. Symbolically, as Mary chooses to break cultural boundaries, Jesus acknowledges that all people are called to follow Jesus. Regardless of what is accepted or not accepted we are all called to follow Jesus. Saints and sinners ― we are all called to follow Jesus. Rich and poor ― we are all called to follow Jesus. Those who have their lives together and those who are struggling ― we are all called to follow Jesus. The "better part" of living is not being busy about the things of the world, but being busy about following Jesus.

What are you busy about? What has your attention? What do you spend most of your energy focused on? While we are called to live in the world, we are not to be of the world. Whose voice do you listen to most often: the world or Jesus? Who has more influence in your life: the way of our American culture or the teachings of Christ? Who are you following: yourself or Jesus?

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Liturgy propels us into service. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises concluded the retreat yesterday. Today they will begin their "Transition Days" designed to foster integration of the retreat and assist in their transition "back home".


"Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so 'on his own', or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus."
― World Youth Day, Madrid, Spain, August 21, 2011


Fr. Michael Delcambre from the Diocese of Lafayette speaks about his experience of the Institute for Priestly Formation and its impact on his priesthood.

© The Institute for Priestly Formation, 2012