July 17, 2022 at St. William Church in Naples, FL
Genesis 18, 1-10 + Psalm 15 + Colossians 1, 24-28 + Luke 10, 38-42
Blessed is the family that never has quarrel! There are few such Blessed families in the Scriptures. It begins with Cane and Able, runs down through David and his brothers. It includes Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau. So, when we find this tense scene between two sisters in Luke’s Gospel, it should come as no surprise. That Luke would include this tense moment in his Gospel that often highlights women is certainly to be expected.
There are all sorts of odd details in this episode: Mary seems to be assuming the role of “Guest Master” which in reality at the time was the role of a man. Where is Lazarus? How is it that these women have the resources to do this with no man? Single women at the time would have been penniless. Then, there is Mary sitting at the feet of the Rabbi. Only men do that in their culture. There are enough contradictions here to confuse and disguise the teaching or revelation Luke may be presenting.
All of these issues must not distract us from what is happening, a family quarrel. We all know that some family conflict is simply inevitable. Both of these two sisters are doing something important. One is paying attention to and listening to a welcome guest. The other is providing refreshment. Perhaps the problem giving rise to the conflict is not that one is doing something right thing and the other something wrong, but that there is no balance here between action and contemplation. Or perhaps we could say: between prayer and work. Somehow when that balance gets tipped in one direction there is going to be trouble.
We might do well to let this Gospel speak to us simply about restoring or preserving some good balance to our lives. Working every day with no time for prayer or no time for attending Mass is way off balance. A person who neglects their work and responsibilities for others is a long way from holiness and headed for a crisis. The conflict between the two obviously keeps them from really enjoying the presence of Christ. At the same time, later communities receiving this Gospel may be in conflict trying to adjust their behavior and attitude over the obvious role of women whose previous role was very restricted.
The presence of Jesus always seems to stretch limitations and push hard for inclusiveness. He constantly rejects rules and regulations that demean or eliminate others. Usually when Jesus comes to a house, he becomes the host making a place at his table for everyone. The only requirement for communion with Christ is acceptance of the others he invites. With a wholesome balance in our lives, we can see, hear, and understand what he offers us by having a place at his table.