Getting Priorities Right

– Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi –

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”  [Luke 10:41-42]

Today’s Gospel reading is the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary and a dispute that arose between the two sisters during his visit. It is similar to other passages from Luke that we have heard this year in that Jesus seems to be a bit harsh on those who are simply following accepted behaviour and social norms. For example, a fellow who wanted to bid farewell to his family before leaving to follow Jesus was told that he had to ‘hate’ his family if he wanted to be a disciple of Jesus. Of course we know that the word ‘hate’ is not intended to be taken literally here. It is about getting one’s priorities right, even if that means going against convention.

Mary’s sitting at the feet of Jesus, where only male disciples were allowed to sit, would have been considered scandalous, particularly when it meant that her sister Martha was left alone in the kitchen to do all the women’s work on her own. Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to do the right thing and get into the kitchen to help her. Instead of taking sides, Jesus took the opportunity to give a lesson on giving priority to being with and loving God. This story reminds us to set aside distractions and habits, and even conventions when necessary, in order to allow time to be with and listen to God, to hear what God’s priorities are and to act on them.


by Elizabeth Harrington

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