Homily Ė 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Ė Year C
Today we hear the story of Martha and Mary. Traditionally this passage of scriptures has long been used to describe the difference between that active and the contemplative lives. That vast majority of Christians are called to the active life through the vocation of the laity. That means that for the lay person their call from God is to sanctify, or make holy, the temporal order. We are to bring all of creation back into order so that it is used for Godís greater glory.
It is easy to empathize with Marthaís feelings in the Gospel today. To many times, in our day an age, we tend to overlook the beautiful gift of work done by the Marthaís in our lives. We take it for granted that the everyday work that needs to be done gets done and we often forget by who. How many mothers feel unappreciated? Do we have any idea who cleans the church, changes the altar linens, sets up for mass, helps with the CCD or confirmation classes, reads, helps to fold the bulletins, or mows the grass? How many times do we thank them for what they do. Many times the little gifts of work that people give to the Lord go unnoticed and are not thanked. Let me take this opportunity to thank all those in our parishes who do so much to care for them. Your service might go unnoticed by some but not by all.
At the same time it seems that the Lord rebukes Martha for her efforts. I donít believe this is the case. He feels for her but reminds her that there is only one thing that is important. That is that we direct everything to Christ. Mary understood this and sat at his feet to be with him. Martha became so involved in her work for the Lord that she was tending to forget he was there. The work itself is not what makes us holy. It is the work we do for Christ, that is offered to Christ, that makes us holy. St. Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings for Christís sake. That is he is conscious of the suffering, toil and drudgery he goes through but doesnít resent it because he offers it to the Lord. Instead of working to the point where he doesnít have Christ, he invites Christ into his most menial tasks, and even into his suffering. This is the model for us all.
Work becomes holy when it is directed to the Lord. But essential to that is to invite Christ in. We donít all need to go and sit at the feet of Christ all the time. But we do need to invite Christ into our daily work. If you donít then you are simply doing work for the workís sake or for passing reasons. By asking Christ to join you in your work, by inviting him into your daily life as you go about your business, by being conscious as we toil of Godís presence; these are the ways in which work takes on an eternal value rather than a temporary one. Many people are willing to suffer for a good reason. Few can tolerate suffering for no reason at all. Christ is the supreme reason, the supreme good, and the best one we can offer our sufferings to. If like Martha we forget that, then work becomes frustrating. We resent others who havenít forgotten it. We become bitter and worried.
When we do something for God, or we give something to God and his Church, we should do so with cheerful hearts and no expectation of thanks. If we do it for God then that is our reward. We know that God doesnít forget, that God sees what is done in secret, and that we canít out give God. Should we be thanked? Yes, most likely we should. But if we are not it doesnít become a source of anger for us. If we do something for thanks, for recognition, for a plaque, or so others may see, then as it says in the scripture we have received our reward. And in the case where that reward doesnít come we can end up sad, bitter, or frustrated. When we give, we must give freely, with no strings attached, grateful that we are doing a service to the Lord. If we have strings attached they will only serve to entangle us later.
True peace and joy come from hearts of gratitude. To serve the Lord and offer our suffering for his sake can make us, like St. Paul, rejoice as well. Each and everyone of us is called to offer our sufferings to God. What makes the world holy is when we invite God into our daily lives.
For too many people, God is only part of one hour a week of their lives. In some, particularly sad cases, he doesnít even get that hour every week. In order to make our lives holy, and to experience the peace of Christ, we need to invite Christ into every aspect of our lives. His presences is what will redeem our work and make it have eternal value. It can be as simply as praying grace before every meal. You can say the angelus at 12 each day. You can have an image of Christ, a crucifix, or a saint present in your work place. You can begin your time of work or study with a prayer dedicating your efforts to God. You can begin your morning with the morning offering said as you prepare yourself for the day. You can say the rosary as your drive and turn off the radio. Or you can play the rosary CD as you drive or in your place of work. Things as simple as these are ways in which you invite Christ into your life. He stands at the door and knocks, but do we let him in.
Though we are grateful for all the hard work that is done for the Lord we are mindful that we need to consciously invite Christ into every area of our lives. To become too worried about the work itself and to forget Christ will lead us to great frustration. To invite Christ in to our daily work and workplace, even in the smallest ways, gives eternal meaning and value to what we do because we do it for the Lord. Then we too can say we rejoice in our sufferings for Christís sake. Does your work have eternal meaning? Would you like it to? Only you can decide. The choice is yours. Choose well.


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