Work as Sanctifying Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C
Genesis 18:1-10A Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5 Colossians 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42
Today’s gospel passage describes Jesus visiting the house of two sisters: Martha and Mary. While Martha busied herself in serving Jesus, making sure he was comfortable and his needs met, Mary was absorbed in learning from Jesus. Noticing Mary just listening to Jesus, Martha complains to Jesus about Mary and tells Jesus to command Mary to help in serving. Jesus surprises Martha by refusing to correct Mary and instead corrects Martha.
Jesus corrects Martha for being overly anxious, excessively engaged in serving his needs. As Brant Pitre points out, it is important to note that Jesus does not correct Martha for working, for serving. Jesus only corrects Martha for being anxious, for being troubled, likely caused by over working, by being so caught up with work and forgetting that work also is an opportunity to glorify God as well.
Jesus did not correct Martha for what she was doing. Rather, he corrected Martha on how she was serving, with anxiety, with a critical spirit, with, perhaps, a touch of envy regarding her sister. By so correcting Martha, Jesus teaches us that just doing good deeds is not sufficient for a follower of Jesus. In addition, Jesus wants us to also to do good for a good reason, principally out of love of God and neighbor while leaving ourselves in the background. An indication that we are properly focusing on God and neighbor when we work is when we allow the good deed to speak for itself by not drawing attention to ourselves by complaining, or fretting.
In addition, by correcting Martha Jesus teaches us that work is also to be sanctifying, that work is another opportunity to praise and glorify God. This means we are not to bracket work from prayer. Rather, we are called to integrate prayer into our work so that all of life becomes an act of offering to God. This is not to say that we don’t need also separate times of prayer, where like Mary, we simply adore God in silent awe. These moments are important, and are needed, and are to inform when we work. When we work, when we engage in activity may we not be so caught up by the activity, that we become excessively troubled, worried and anxious.
One very easy way to integrate prayer into work, especially work that absorbs our attention, is simply to repeat occasionally the Holy Name of Jesus. Some when saying the name of Jesus will, if possible, also focus on their breathing. We can say the Holy Name of Jesus as we peacefully and deeply inhale, as if we are breathing Jesus in and then as we exhale, we can say “have mercy” as we blow out our anxiety, our worries, and any disorder within ourselves.
Lord Jesus, many of us likely identify with Martha more than Mary since our lives our characterized by much work. Teach us how to see our work as also a way to grow in holiness and wisdom, as a way also to praise you and grow in love. Help us to integrate your life into our work so that with every breath we take we are working in union with you and with your heart, your infinitely peaceful, heart of mercy.
Rodrigo Fernández,“Jesús con Marta y María en casa de Lázaro, una de las escenas evangélicas en la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (barrio El Golf, Las Condes, Santiago de Chile) pintadas hacia 1940 en el taller de Pedro Subercaseaux,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus_con_Marta_y_Maria_en_casa_de_Lazaro_-ig_Nstra_Sra_Angeles_3_der_fRF1.2.jpg.
Tintoretto [Public domain], “Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary by Tintoretto, 16th century,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jacopo_Tintoretto_008-2.jpg.
Eugeniusz Kazimirowski (1873-1939) [Public domain], “Divine Mercy. Painting in Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kazimirowski_Eugeniusz,_Divine_Mercy,_1934.jpg.
Brant Pitre, “The Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.