There was this young man whom I came to identify as one of the few who would never skip the least Church activity. He was as constant as the North Star (Polaris) as far as attendance is concerned and punctuality was his trademark. I kept this observation to myself while relishing his placid commitment and devotion.
There came a time when I could no longer see him at mass and I became apprehensive. For one week he was absent in all the activities in the Church and I concluded that he travelled. While still wondering why he had to travel suddenly, I asked someone about him and I was told that he did not travel as he was seen around his neighbourhood. After mass that same day, I asked someone to lead me to the young man’s house.
On reaching to Gideon’s house I was told he was inside his rooming playing with his mobile phone. I took that to be a very simplistic reason for him not to attend mass. His mother who was surprised to see me in their house thanked me for the visit which she saw as providential. According to her, Gideon does not know any other thing to do with his fingers and time apart from clicking and swiping on the mobile phone with so much dedication that would last for hours.
When Gideon came out and I asked him why he had been obviously absent from the Church he openly confessed to me that he had been under the enslavement of Candy Crush Saga. Candy Crush Saga is a simple mobile game which involves the matching of coloured sweets yet it is highly mind-numbing and addictive. People spend so much of their productive time trying to reach new levels and by so doing buying new lives and boosters. According to a research reported by The Guardian, as much as 93 million people play Candy Crush Saga every day and the company behind the gaming app, the King digital Entertainment, makes not less than $800,000.00 every day.
This reflection started with the story of Gideon’s plight with Candy Crush Saga to demonstrate the on-going tension between our needs and our wants, between our spiritual needs and our material wants or more appropriately, between the “Mary” and the “Martha” syndrome in our lives. Have you wondered why most people are ready to keep awake all night watching action movies or chatting irrelevantly on various social networks but would find ten minutes of prayer so long and tiring? This is the “Mary” and “Martha” tension that will take our attention in this reflection as we examine and sort out the equation.
The First Reading (Genesis 18:1-10a), and the Gospel Reading (Luke 10:38-42) can best be described as the twin towers of our reflection. In both Readings, we are presented with divine visitation on the one hand and human hospitality on the other hand. Here we see the encounter between the spiritual and the material and the equational balancing between the two. One is at the service of the other and not at disservice or detrimental to the other.
In the First Reading, we are told that God appeared to Abraham by the Oak of Mamre as he sat at the entrance of his house in the heat of the day. This can be summarized in few words as divine visitation. What could have been in the mind of Abraham whom God had promised that he will be the Father of a great nation (Gen.17:4) but still battling with having a child with his wife Sarah? It could have been one of those introspective moments filled with so many questions without tangible answers.
Beyond his situation, Abraham lifted up his eyes and looking ahead he saw three men standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran to meet with them. We were told earlier that the Lord appeared to him now we are presented with three men. This is one of the most descriptive biblical pointers to the Trinity. Abraham ran to them and requested to attend to them, in order words he offered hospitality as his human response to the divine visitation.
After giving them a sumptuous lunch which was hurriedly prepared, they stood to go but not without leaving a life changing message. The message seemed laughable as Sarah’s reaction indicated but it showed forth the fact that with God what is humanly impossible is divinely happenable. The message was that Sarah would have a son in the coming year. Many of us can actually connect with this promise even as this good news is being preached.
From the narrative, we can notice that Abraham responded willfully to God’s visit. Though he was tired and may be troubled but those were not excuses for him not to attend to people he perceived that they needed a human touch and attention. Abraham ran towards the divine and provided what he could afford and in appreciation, he was given what he was lacking. In order words, he went for his “Mary” (the spiritual; that is God) and with that he was able to receive his much awaited “Martha” (that is Isaac).
In the Gospel Reading today, our Lord Jesus Christ entered a village called Bethany (John 11:1) and a woman named Martha received him into her house. Here we notice a similarity with what Abraham did. Martha had a sister called Mary. Now Martha’s intention was to give our Lord an unforgettable meal and she went ahead to busy herself in the kitchen. However her sister Mary who appears to be the calm recollected type discovered that our Lord Jesus Christ came with another kind of meal, the word of God, so she sat by his feet like a truly committed disciple and listened to him as he gave those words of eternal life (John 6:68).
Martha was not pleased that her sister left her alone to do all the culinary chores as she complained bitterly to our Lord. Our Lord did not patronize her as he told her that she is anxious and troubled about many things but only one is needed and Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.
We could ask immediately what was it that Mary chose? The answer to this is within the context of the narrative. Mary chose the food of the soul above the food of the body. As Martha was consciously preparing the table for material food, Mary, on the other hand, went ahead to prepare the table of the soul for the spiritual food.
It should be established immediately that Martha was not wrong in her decision to prepare food for the August visitor just as Abraham did for his visitors in the First Reading. We all eat and the food we eat need to be prepared by someone. Where Martha got it wrong was her emphasis on the material food she was making as more desirable than the spiritual food that Mary was receiving. Are most of us not very much like Martha in our lives and conducts?
The “Martha syndrome” is still prevalent in our day and age.
- Most of us are concerned about how to dress well externally and appear good to people than how to dress well inwardly and appear good to God.
- Most of us are more interested in how many movies we have watched than how many meaningful verses of the bible we could read.
- Our fingers are more proficient on our phones than on rosaries and on works of charity.
- We spend so much time condemning and criticizing leaving no time for fraternal correction and appreciation
- We are ready to go the whole day in gossips and vain interactions than spending few minutes in the presence of God.
- Most of us pay strict attention to our diets and nutrition but have little or no regard for the diet and nutrition of our souls.
- Most of us are caught up in INFOBESITY (information overload) about ways and things of the world (especially with modern technology) but are malnourished about the things of God. In fact, spirituality is gradually becoming a material for the archives for many people.
Today we are called upon to pay Regular Focused Attention (RFA) to the Mary part of our lives. This we can achieve like Mary in did the Gospel by listening to the word of God and putting it into productive practice (Luke 11:28). If we place the Mary attribute first we can be sure that all the Martha we need will be given to us (Matt. 6:33). Let us not abandon the Mary for the Martha like Gideon did in our opening story with the Candy Crush Saga in place of mass and other Church activities.
One question each and everyone of us should ask ourselves and provide answer would be “What part have I chosen, Mary’s part or Martha’s part?
Have an enriching Sunday and a great week ahead,
3 responses to “THE “MARY” AND “MARTHA” SYNDROME IN OUR LIVES: FINDING THE RIGHT EQUATION HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD”
Hi Fr. Bonnie,
This is a HOLY SERMON! It evinces a rattling exegesis from uncommon mind! I enjoyed it. May God accompany your duty with abundant graces.
Thanks a lot Philip. We continue to ask God for increase in deeper knowledge.
God almighty, remove our eyes from the world.