Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary are oftentimes opposed against each other as if the two aspects of Christian life compete with each other: Labora and Ora. Martha stands for active apostolic life while Mary stands for the contemplative life. And of course, because Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken away from her,” the conclusion is that the contemplative life is higher than the apostolic life.

“Mary has chosen the better portion”: what did she do? She sat at the feet of the Lord and listened to his word: “Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak”. She opened her heart to the Lord. She opened to him the door of her secret place and there conversed with him in secret. “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

However, let it not be forgotten that Mary was able to open her heart to the Lord only because Martha opened her home to him: “Martha welcomed him.” Martha opened her home to Jesus because such was demanded of her by the requirement of Christian hospitality: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Wasn’t our Lord a homeless stranger? In last Sunday’s parable, wasn’t our Lord the Good Samaritan because he was a foreigner to this earth: “I do not belong to this world”? And a few Sundays back, did he not say that he was homeless: “Foxes have lairs and birds have nests but the Son of Man does not have a place to rest his head”? On account of these, Jesus wants to be invited to our homes. Thus, he invited himself to Zaccheus’ home: “Hurry down because I mean to stay at your house today!” In the book of the Apocalypse it is written: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sit down to supper with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:29)

We want to raise our children as good Christians. We want them to develop an intimate personal relationship with the Lord. We want them to imitate Mary who opened her heart and welcomed the Lord into her life. However, this can only take place if we open our homes to Christ and welcome him. The first place where our children ought to meet and know the Lord is the Christian home. That is why when we see that our children do not seem to have an intimate friendship with the Lord, when we see that they seemed not to have opened their hearts to him, perhaps it might be because we have not opened our homes to the Lord.

I notice that many modern homes I have blessed no longer have an altar located in a prominent place. Visitors to old homes are often greeted by an image of Christ majestically enthroned upon the home altar. Today, the guest is most likely to be greeted by pictures of horses. Perhaps we should ask: in houses where the Lord is visibly absent, could it be possible that he be present in their conversations or even in their relations? The more probable answer would be a “no” for the mere reason that the principle “out of sight, out of mind” is true. Christian virtues are caught in homes where the atmosphere and lifestyle are distinctly Catholic. When Martha opened her home to Christ, she provided Mary the opportunity to open her heart to him. In like manner, we encourage our children to open their hearts to Christ if we show them that the Lord is always “the head of our homes, the unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every conversation.” St. Paul said to the Colossians: “It is Christ whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

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