By FR. ROLANDOV. DELA ROSA, OP
On my birthday, I received a gift with a card that says: “Use this shampoo and it will make your hair shiny and aromatic.” The giver forgot that I have no more hair.
The value of a gift lies in its appropriateness. We appreciate the gift that suits our personality, state of life, career, or age. And when the gift answers a particular need, we appreciate it more for beinga wish come true.
Today’s gospel reading tells the story of two women who are both gift givers.The story is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel reading wherein Jesus praised the Good Samaritan for providing a man, victimized by thieves, the gift that the latter truly needed—attention, care, and healing.
The two women are Martha and Mary. Of the two, Martha seems to exhibit the qualities of the Good Samaritan because, immediately after Jesus’ arrival, she gets busy preparing what she thinks Jesus needs. We expect Jesus to praise Martha but He instead rebukes her, not because she is busy doing things for Jesus, but because she lacks focus.
If we read closely the parable of the Good Samaritan, we realize that he is not just doing things for the man victimized by thieves. The first thing he does is to acknowledge the man’s presence. While everybody ignores him, the Good Samaritan pays undivided attention to him. He makes the man feel that he truly matters, and not just a recipient of his benevolence and acts of charity.
From the moment Jesus arrives at their doorsteps, Mary does precisely that. She gives Him the gift that He truly needs — time and whole-hearted attention to His person.
Martha, on the other hand, is focused on the demands of hospitality. Her frantic and meticulous attention to details makes her lose sight of the person for whom she is doing all that. In fact, she somehow reprimands Jesus for what’s happening to her. She grumbles: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”
Jesus replies: “Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her.” Sometimes, “the better” can be the enemy of “the good.” Martha’s hospitality is good, but Mary’s full attention on what Jesus truly needs is better.
Martha personifies many contemporary Catholics today. We think wrongly that life is about getting things done, and as quickly as possible. So we multitask. Multitasking makes us rush from one task to another, thereby neglecting the presence of significant people in our life. We get bored too easily with long conversations with them because our minds are focused on the list of things we have to do.
We often hear people say: “I have to hurry because I have no time.” Truth is, we have plenty of time, but we don’t devote a few moments to determine what really matters to us.
In today’s gospel reading, Mary gives the best gift to Jesus because she has set her priorities right. I imagine her telling Jesus, in the words of the poet Rabindranath Tagore:
“I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by your side. The works that I have in hand I will finish afterwards. Away from the sight of your face my heart knows no rest, and my work stretches into a shoreless sea of toil. Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with you, and to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.”