“Martha! There Were Glass Ceilings in First Century Palestine: Ask Mary; She Broke One!” – Luke 10:38-42†


Sorry for being late in posting this reflection.  My wife and kids just came home from camping and float trip, and I wanted to spend a few minutes with them.

 

Today in Catholic History:
 

†  64 – Great fire of Rome: A fire begins to burn in the merchant area of Rome and soon burns completely out of control while Emperor Nero reportedly plays his lyre and sings while watching the blaze from a safe distance.
†  1334 – The bishop of Florence blesses the first foundational stone laid for the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral, designed by the artist Giotto di Bondone.
†  1100 – Death of Godfrey of Bouillon, Protector of the Holy Sepulcher, de facto King of Jerusalem
†  1925 – Death of Louis Nazaire Bégin, Roman Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Quebec (b. 1840)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

“If we secretly feel a desire to appear greater or better than others, we must repress it at once” ~ St. Teresa of Jesus†


Today’s reflection is about Jesus visiting the house of Martha and Mary, and discipleship for men and women.

Now as they [Jesus and the Disciples] went on their way, he [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ (NRSV  Luke 10:38-42)

 

The story of Martha and Mary illustrates the importance of hearing the words of the teacher: Jesus.  It also demonstrates a concern Jesus had about women of that time.  Jesus was one of the very first “equal-rights” proponents, breaking with the social conventions of His time.  This is demonstrated in that Jesus is alone with women who are not related to Him; a woman serves Him instead of the master of the house serving Him; and He teaches a woman in her own house, all in opposition to societal norms.  Just as the Samaritan (from last Sunday’s Gospel reading) would not be a model for neighborliness; a woman, in Jesus’ time, would not sit at the feet of a teacher; be alone in the house with Him; nor would serve Him directly.

Women of first-century Judaic Palestine were to be hardly seen, and never heard, especially in public.  Women were very much a marginalized group, just like the Samaritans.  For Martha’s sister, Mary (NOT to be confused with the Blessed Virgin Mary), to “sit at the Lord’s feet” is significant indeed.  Mary, just like Martha, should have been instead preparing a “proper” welcoming of hospitality, which always included food for any guest (i.e., Jesus).  Her taking the posture and place of a disciple at the master’s feet, reveals a characteristic attitude of Jesus towards the women around Him.

The story of the Good Samaritan that precedes this Gospel reading opens with the words “a certain man,” and today’s reading opens with the words a certain woman.”  The Samaritan was an example of how a disciple should see and act; and the woman, Mary, an example of how a disciple should listen.  I also don’t see Martha’s activities as necessarily wrong either.  After all, you can’t have a real “communion” [an intimacy, connection or fellowship] with Jesus without service, as well as faith!  Martha just lost her perspective, which caused her to lose her temper.

Interestingly, both of these people do what is NOT expected of them.  Women had a significant role in Jesus’ ministry which was unprecedented in Jewish Society.  His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was with Him throughout His public ministry: never leaving His side.  All of His male Apostles deserted Jesus in the garden on Holy Thursday; but at least several women stayed by His side throughout His scourging, walk with the cross, His crucifixion, and even at and after His death.  The first person to see the Risen Lord on that Easter Sunday morning was a woman.  During His public life, women followed Jesus, and provided for Him and the others out of their own resources:  Besides Mary and Martha, others included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, plus many others.

Women today still have a significant role in Jesus’ ministry on earth.  Some argue that women are considered a second class in the Catholic Church.  Though I am a male, I strongly disagree!!  Women have a very active role in the Church family.  Women are on Parish Councils and Boards; run Parish and Diocease based programs such as schools, PSR programs, RCIA programs, and other church functions.  Women primarily teach and administrate in our schools, including Catholic seminaries, write books and lecture, evangelize and even run Missionary Societies and programs.  And most importantly, women are usually the lead person in the rearing of children, and are the instrumental teacher of the Catholic faith to future generations.  The only role that a woman is not allowed is that of the Permanent Diaconate and Priestly vocations (including the Episcopacy).  The reason, to put it simply, is that Jesus was a male and that He (and the Apostles) never appointed any females to these roles, at any time.  There have never been female clergy in the Catholic Church, so the church can never have female clergy.

The parable of the Good Samaritan and this story, both exemplify how a disciple is to fulfill the dual command which begins this chapter of Luke’s Gospel:  to love God (shown by Mary),  and to love neighbor (shown by the Samaritan).  These two “essentials” of daily life are necessary for inheriting the Kingdom of God.  By using the examples of a Samaritan and woman, Jesus is saying that something more is needed than what the social codes of that day, or even today call for to gain entrance to the Kingdom.  Social rules and boundaries were obviously very stringent in first-century Judaic Palestine.  However, to love God with all one’s heart, and to love one’s neighbor regardless of social, religious, ethnic status; or position in society, required breaking those rules and norms.  

I believe this message of love needs to be advocated and preached to today’s world through all potential methods available.  We need to imprint the “beatitudes” in our hearts; and to live them continuously, and without any prejudice.  Food for thought: what is my relationship with God?  Am I the servant, the listener, or the conversationalist in my relationship with God?  Or, am I just too pre-occupied to think about Jesus and my relationship with Him?  I pray that I am a little bit of the first three (servant, listener, conversationalist), and none of the last (pre-occupied)!

The Kingdom of God has never changed, and never will change, for it is already perfect.  It is a society without distinctions and boundaries between its members.  It is a society that requires times for seeing and doing, and also times for listening and learning at the feet of a teacher.  How can I help break down the boundaries that separate people; and bring the Kingdom of God on earth to all, by learning, seeing, and doing in my everyday life ?

I would like to close this reflection with a prayer that expounds that no boundaries should separate us, and that we are all His children: the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father.

 

Our Father”

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us
;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Szymon of Lipnica 1439-1482

In the summer of 1453 when St. John Capistrran visited Cracow, the capital of Poland, at the invitation of the Polish King Casimir, his sermons produced veritable miracles of conversion. Many of the young people, too, among them many students from the University of Cracow, resolved to renounce the world and begged the holy preacher for the habit of the Franciscan Order.

One of these was Szymon of the little town of Lipnica not far from Cracow.

He had just taken his bachelor’s degree in the humanities, and what is of greater consequence, by means of childlike veneration of the Blessed Virgin he had preserved his purity of heart unsullied.  

Although he had lived an innocent life, he now lived a life of great penance in the order, observed long fasts, scourged his body, and always wore a penitential girdle.  On the feasts of our Blessed Lady he added a second one, in order to win her special favor.

After he had been ordained a priest and been entrusted with the office of preacher in the convent church of Cracow, his words bore the impress of such zeal and eloquence that he brought back countless sinners from the paths of iniquity; and he then guided them on the path of Christian conduct with loving gentleness. Many of his auditors were moved to aspire to higher perfection.

Szymon entertained an ardent desire to shed his blood for the Faith, and he hoped to be sent to Palestine to labor among the Saracens.  This hope, however, was not fulfilled. He did have to suffer many hardships, but after devoutly visiting the holy places, he returned safely to Cracow. There another type of martyrdom was destined to procure for him the eternal crown.

In the beginning he resumed his task of preaching with renewed zeal. He was obliged also to accept various positions in the order, including that of provincial.  He was ever active for the welfare of his brethren and of all men, and allowed himself only the most necessary repose.  He used to say that he hoped to enjoy a real rest when God would grant him eternal rest.

His motto was: “Pray, work, and hope.”

About the year 1482, an epidemic broke out in Cracow and raged with terrible fury. Filled with love for his neighbor and the spirit of holy zeal for the salvation of souls, Father Szymon devoted himself entirely to the service of the sick. It was not long before he, too, was attacked by the dread disease.

Filled with gratitude to God for this privilege and with Christian hope in a merciful judgment, he died a martyr of charity on July 18, 1482. Numerous miracles occurred at his grave, whereupon the Holy See approved his veneration. Beatified February 24, 1685 by Blessed Pope Innocent XI, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3, 2007.

from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959  Franciscan Herald Press 
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #18:

Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

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