By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie
When I first looked at these readings, it was the day when the UN High Commission on Refugees released the latest figures. “An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.” The agency also reported that “There are also millions of stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.”
I thought about what it would be like if people in stable countries responded like Abraham in today’s first reading. Abraham didn’t greet them with hostility or fear. He didn’t lock them in his barn. No, Abraham offered them water to wash their feet, a place to rest in the shade of a tree and had Sarah make a great meal for them. In short, he offered them hospitality.
In the second reading, Paul tells the Colossians—and us—that Jesus
“is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
That is, we are all created through Christ and for Christ and in Christ all creation is held together, connected. It doesn’t matter whether plant or animal, insect or rock, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or non-believer or whatever, we are God’s and we are held together by the Word of God.
These days thinking about all that’s going on and all that’s being done that adversely affects people and the planet, I sometimes forget the healing power of prayer and community. Each month, people gather for silent prayer on Burnaby Mountain, the site of the Trans Mountain (formerly Kinder Morgan) pipeline project.
Remembering to listen in turbulent times is a soul-nourishing necessity. Sitting with the group on the mountain in silent contemplation, listening to the bird songs, smelling the aromas of the verdant abundance, hearing the wind in the trees, I am reminded that prayer should not be a last resort but a first and constant reference point. Today’s gospel seems to emphasize this.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.”
We are all both Mary and Martha. These days especially, we can get so busy with our activism, that we neglect to choose the better part. We need to pause, to take the time to listen to what Jesus is saying to us. For example, in our Catholic tradition we have a wealth of ready-made prayers. We tend to say these prayers by rote, while thinking of other things that we just must get done, like dishes, laundry, the next meeting. We tend to play down or avoid the contemplative styles of prayer.
We have come to know prayer as “talking” to God. We spend most of our prayer time doing just that, talking. But that is only one part of what prayer is. Yes, we are called to talk to God through our prayer—but—prayer also calls us to open our hearts, still our minds and listen to what God has to say to us. The story of Mary and Martha shows us how we can get to know God better. It presents us with another way to show God our love: through a quiet mind and an open, listening heart. As the Psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Perhaps Jesus’ praise of Mary could even be seen as an affirmation of the ordinary follower of Jesus who just sits and listens at gatherings of the Christian community. Perhaps it’s a reminder to those of us who are activists and/or religious leaders not to get caught up in the busy-ness of our “doing” while forgetting the “Reason” we are doing, as if it wasn’t about Jesus but all about us! Jesus is reminding us not to lose track of what’s really important, that is, His presence among us.
Today’s readings and today’s realities call us to prayer and contemplation as well as to hospitality and action.
Victoria Marie is co-funder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, member of Roman Catholic Women Priests Canada, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Inclusive Catholic Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014). This reflection is a shared or dialogue homily where Vikki gives a short “homily starter” then those present offer their reflections.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.