The Better Part

Sunday, 17 July 2022

By Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

                This Sunday’s readings are about “A Message”.  In the First Reading, the angel of the Lord (or the Lord himself) came to the man Abraham.  Abraham had stepped out for God, he’d made that proverbial leap of faith and left everything he knew behind.  That day, Abraham and Sarah were made a promise:  Within a year, they would be visited again and they would be able to show off their own son.  Abraham trusted, believed the divine promise.  But Sarah despaired of ever having children and, in Genesis 18:12, not a part of today’s Reading:  Sarah laughed.  Do you suppose she laughed for joy at hearing she would finally bear a son; or was her laugh drenched in bitterness, knowing she would not?  Who chose ‘the better part’?  Abraham or Sarah?

                Sometimes we don’t know what ‘the better part’ might be.  Then, sometimes God pierces the mystery and pours the very answer into the laps of the most unlikely of people.  St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, explains that the answer to the Mystery of the Ages is that Christ is among them . . . among us.  In that day, not all chose ‘the better part’, but many did.

                Life can be so distracting, shifting our attention this way and that.  Jesus’ friend Martha found this out one day.  She fretted about her duty to hospitality.  Abraham had done the same, rousing his household to quickly, quickly provide for the unexpected guests.  Hospitality was of great consequence and both Abraham and Martha knew that many little details needed to be put into play in order to do it well.  Jesus was important – Martha knew – and she so wanted to do it well for him.  But her sister – lazy girl – did not help her.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, as close as she could get, and was attentive to the only thing that was needed.  Martha cried out for help to do her will for Jesus; but Mary chose ‘the better part’, she chose to do Jesus’ will for her.

                Jesus was proud of Mary’s decision, but loved Martha no less.  He gently admonished Martha, pointing out her error.  What do you suppose Martha did then?  Do you think she scurried off to get refills for her honored guests?  Or do you think she dried her hands, put her towel down – rather thoughtfully – and joined her sister at the feet of Jesus? 

                What about us?  We’ve learned the answer to the Mystery of the Ages – we’ve learned that Jesus Christ is among us.  What do we do with that information?  Do we still bow to the gods of our time:  to a full schedule, to responsibilities to others, to an inflated sense of self?  Or, do we choose . . . The Better Part?

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