16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As you may know, he turned the worst week of our lives into an experience of utter joy. That was when Lazarus died unexpectedly, and we buried him in the tomb, and Jesus came and raised him from the dead. An extraordinary miracle! (Though, I still don't understand why Jesus waited two days come. But it all worked out in the end, I guess.)
As I said, Mary and I and Lazarus lived together. We knew each other well -- our habits, our foibles, our personalities, and we got on well. We prided ourselves on hospitality, and it seemed there were always people coming and going. Sometimes it was hard work, but we worked well together and took a lot of pleasure in making others feel welcome and content.
You must understand that when Jesus came to visit, it was never just him. Think about it, he never went anywhere by himself. There was always a crowd. So, on that day he "stopped in" for lunch, we were in quite scramble to accommodate everyone. But of course, we invited Jesus and all the guests to relax and recline, while we went into high gear and started to do just what we do best . . . hospitality.
Or so I thought!
In a few minutes, I turned around and saw Mary just sitting there at the feet of Jesus soaking in his every word. Her face was aglow! Well, quite frankly, I was pretty red-faced myself . . . for different reasons, as you heard earlier. I threw a little fit. Okay, I lost it! There was just so much to do, and this was just weird; it wasn't like Mary to be unhelpful.
What I didn’t realize then, that Jesus could see, was that Mary was fully caught up in the Spirit, in the pure, loving presence of God, and her only response was to sit, contemplate, soak in the love. In that moment, there was nothing else but God's presence. I couldn't see it, but Jesus could. Have you ever had such a moment? I sure hope so.
In the end, all worked out okay. I got over my fit, everyone got a morsel to eat, Jesus taught us a lesson, and Mary had an encounter that she carries in her heart forever.
A few of important things I want you to know.
Down through the ages, people have tried to affix personality types to Mary and me. Ah, you're a 'Mary', you can be quiet, contemplative in your adoration for hours on end. And oh, you are a 'Martha', always doing, always on the go, always serving. For the record, neither Mary nor me fit into those labeled boxes. We both have had deep spiritual encounters of being, simply being; and we both have had many moments when doing is all that's called for, no thinking, no feeling, no dwelling, just doing. Both are authentic ways to respond to God's beckon in your life, God's calling. And, if you want my opinion, each feeds off the other. You can’t have one without the other.
And I think that's just what your Gospel storyteller is trying say to you from last Sunday to this Sunday:
Last week, the Good Samaritan was all about doing. Someone's life depends on you moving into action NOW! Don't think, dwell, ponder, discern. Just act, and act now.
This week, Mary's story is just the opposite. When the spirit comes over you, stop, go quiet, open your heart, shut out all the noise and clutter, and let her in.
The key, of course, is to respond to both beckons, for one will lead to the other.
But one important caution: beware of the dreaded temptation of what if . . .
What if . . . this spiritual awakening isn’t real?
What if . . . people think I’m crazy?
What if . . . I get in trouble for helping that needy person?
What if . . . that person is conning me?
What if . . . I don’t know how to explain my spiritual encounter?
What if . . .
What if . . .
The temptation that, last week, kept the priest and the Levite from helping the wounded man on the road is really the same one, this week, that kept me (and perhaps you) from sitting at the feet of Jesus: What if . . . this encounter changes my life?
You want to know something fascinating? We Bible characters live on forever! Why? Well, simply because the Word of God is a living Word. Even those characters who aren't historical have a life of their own, such as the Good Samaritan you met last Sunday. (Remember, he’s just a character in a parable that Jesus told -- a made up story designed to teach an important lesson.) Ah, but we Bible characters all know each other now, even if we couldn't have possibly known each other back in the day.
Isn’t that great? And you know what? We root for you. We pull for you, and we admire you a great deal for navigating your way through the extraordinary complexities and challenges of your modern life. I, for one, couldn’t have done it, even though, according to your holy Church, I’m a saint! Fact is, you are the true saints! Hang in there!
When you feel that beckon to serve, to act, to help, think of Good Sam and jump right in. He’ll be right there with you.
And when you feel that beckon to just stop, go quiet, and open your heart, think of my sister Mary, and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit taking you to places unknown.
That's my story. Thanks for listening.
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