The three most horrific words in the English language, at least for me, are … “Some Assembly Required”. All of you parents out there know exactly what I mean. I hate it when I buy something, bring it home, and then have to put it together. It never goes the way it is supposed to. If my wife and I ever get divorced, it will be over some item labeled some assembly required. The last thing we put together was a grill. As we began my wife looked at me and said you’re angry already, and we haven’t even started. I replied that I knew I would be angry at some point, so why waste time? Cut to the chase and get angry now. Of course it would help if I would listen to the directions instead of just bulling ahead, thinking I can do this, who needs directions? In the gospel today Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is running around, taking care of all the things that she thinks are necessary to properly care for the guests she and her sister are entertaining. Mary, on the other hand, sits at the feet of Jesus, soaking in what the Lord has to say. In exasperation Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help with the work. Jesus tells Martha to stop worrying, Mary has chosen the better part. Many people have interpreted this to mean that contemplation, sitting quietly, is superior to working, to acting, to doing things. However, like many things in our faith this is not an either or situation, it is rather a case of both/and. Martha was running around doing things, important things, acting much the way we do, jumping in, trying to fix things, running from this thing to that, and unfortunately often accomplishing little. Mary was doing the thing we all need to do first, she was taking the time to get the directions. We need the directions to know what to do, to know how to act. It isn’t that one way of being isn’t better than the other. We need both. We need to act, but we need direction, and that direction can only come from taking the time to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen. We need to read, to study, and most of all to pray. Life comes in a box labeled “some assembly required”. We can struggle, trying to put it together, growing angry and frustrated, or we can read the directions. It may not always go smoothly, but at least with the directions we have an idea of where to go.
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 22, 2007