Gospel Reflections

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 10:38-42

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Anne Flanagan

Published: July 17, 2016

When you are expecting a special guest, what do you do?  Perhaps, ahead of time, you straighten up the house, clean the family room or living room. Then you make sure you have enough food, prepare a special meal. So as we listen to the story of Martha and Mary, we can imagine their preparations to welcome Jesus. Martha was obviously the main cook. Maybe Mary had done some ahead of time.

Hospitality was and is very important to the peoples of the Middle East. We remember the story of Abraham and the angel guests as well as the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.

Now Jesus arrives. Mary welcomes him and sits to listen to him. (After all we don’t usually leave a guest alone!) Mary is busy doing the last minute preparations in the kitchen. Each one offers her unique gift of hospitality. Both gifts are needed.

In a book by an Australian Jesuit Scripture Scholar, Brendan Byrne, called the HOSPITALITY OF GOD, the author says that this is the theme of Luke’s Gospel. In the story of Martha and Mary we see the face of hospitality.

Yes, some have centered their commentaries on this Gospel on the question “Which is better? Prayer, represented by Mary’s contemplative listening, or Action shown by Martha’s doing, serving?” In reality both are needed if we are to be disciples of Jesus. The test of the validity of our contemplation, the fruit of our prayer is seen in our active love of our neighbor - our service and our welcome to all to whom we minister, all who come into our lives.

As we reflect on this Gospel, we might ask ourselves

  • What is the quality of our hospitality?
  • Which gift of hospitality do we offer - listening presence or active serving?
  • Who is waiting to be welcomed by us?

Perhaps, the following poem may be familiar to you.


Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be
A saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawn light, or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.

Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
I think of how they trod the earth, what time I scrub the floor.
Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace.
Forgive me all my worrying and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea.
Accept this service that I do –I do it unto Thee.
—By Cecily Rosemary Hallack (1898-1938)

May we have both a Mary Heart and a Martha Mind!

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