Sunday, February 27, 2011

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mary and Martha

Readings for February 27, 2011, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time 2011

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
February 27, 2011

Your heart is racing, you're breathing quickens, and maybe you even start to sweat. I experienced this on Friday as I carried a large movement into the shop in the cold and with asthma my lungs don't like that. Maybe you look down from on high and realize, I don't like heights. Or maybe you are startled by a noise in the house and you are all alone. Is it a burglar or did a hose brake and water is running all over the place. Remember having come awake after a vivid nightmare and you are afraid!

All of us experience fear one time or another, but what about a persistent fear or anxiety? There is a lot of that going around these days. Is my child having to go to Afghanistan? Will I be able to keep my job? Will I be able to beat this cancer? Or are my kids going to church now that they are no longer home, or what will it take to get them back to Church? This maybe is the tip of the iceberg: and it is no secret that stress, anxiety and worry have a negative effect on us.

However in the Gospel, Jesus tells us "not to worry" about our lives. And you know what I say to that, easier said that done. And I'm betting that you all are saying the same thing albeit not willing to say it out loud. Remembering what we just heard from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares us to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Are not their needs taken care of? "If God so cloths the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown in the oven tomorrow, will He not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?"

As it is in our day, so it was at the time of Christ. Much of the New Testament is implicitly a story about the easing of fear and the beginnings of hope. Mary was afraid when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, announcing she would bear a son. So was Jesus when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane preparing for His crucifixion. So must have been the Apostles when they gathered in the Upper Room after the death of the Lord. They were afraid, but none of them was paralyzed by their fear. They were strengthened to overcome it. God's Spirit enabled Mary to cry out to Gabriel not in fear, but in confidence and in love---"I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to your word" -- accepting the unknown as God's will. The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to cry out--"Father, not my will, but your will be done" before He was led to His death. The Spirit enabled the Apostles to boldly proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth, changing their fear to an unshakable sense of their mission in Christ.

Jesus Himself also describes the reality of worry and hope in parable form.

Remember the familiar story of Mary and Martha? Often the story is used to compare prayer and action, it can likewise be used to compare hope and worry. Martha, busy and distracted by her duties in the home, came to Jesus and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me" But the Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Gee-wiz, Martha surely had to be concerned about the cleanliness of the house and what food to be served is properly prepared? I say someone had to be concerned, what do you say? We can be on Mary's side of the story as well, who sat at the feet of Jesus, learning from Him and trusting Him. You may ask yourself, am I a Martha or a Mary? For myself I find that I'm a Martha. Not that Mary's role isn't inviting, but after-all someone has to get the work done.

For the Marthas and all of us who worry, the antidote to anxiety is the virtue of Hope, enabling us through the power of the Holy Spirit to trust in a future blessing by God, culminating in eternal life with Him. I could not guess how many time in a day that I say, Jesus I trust in You! At every Mass, at the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer, we pray: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

We trust that the same spirit that emboldened Mary, Jesus and the Apostles can help us to overcome the fear and anxiety that weigh us down today. It's okay to be afraid, it's okay to acknowledge our weaknesses, our hesitations, and our anxieties, and all the things that can hold us back. Before we can offer them to the Holy Spirit we must first be able to name these fears; claim them as truly bothering us, and then we can ask the Holy Spirit to transform them from anxiety and despair into hope and an invitation to grow closer in God's Love. Jesus, I trust in You, now and always!

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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