My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Those two female characters from the Gospel capture perfectly the tension we can detect in the Church as well, the tension between action and listening. The tension will always escalate when we favour one thing over another. Don’t think that Jesus condemned Martha’s attitude and favoured Mary’s. He didn’t, but he rather indicated that what we do should come from our listening to the Lord. As doing things without being grounded in the Word of God can have little to do with God as listening to the Word of God without putting it into practice can have little to do with God as well.
Next week we will see Jesus in one of those intimate moments of prayer. It must have been so captivating that his disciples asked him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” The outcome of that request is the prayer we all know so well: Our Father. Did Jesus pray this prayer before or did he compose it after being asked by his Apostles? We cannot answer this question but we can identify with confidence a prayer he prayed at least twice a day, the prayer which has been a framework of day and life for the Jewish people for millennia: “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonal Eloheinu Adonai Ehad” which can be translated as: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God! The Lord is One!” or “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God – the Lord alone.” As the Bible prescribed it the Jews have prayed it at their rising in the morning and at their resting at night. Can you notice here that the accent is on listening? Isn’t a powerful and motivating way to start your day? To be open to the Lord speaking in various ways, through various events and various people? Then the actions we perform flow from God himself. They are not simply our actions but they are rather the continuation of the Lord’s creation story which was worded in the Genesis. Isn’t also a powerful and reassuring way to conclude the day, to look at the finishing day with an intention to recall God’s inspirations which came to us?
Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, which St Luke described so vividly, is an encouragement to us all: to begin what we do with listening to the Lord our God, that’s what Martha overlooked, and to put into practice what we have heard, that’s what hopefully Mary later did.
However there is another aspect which links both Shema and Our Father, they are not private or individualistic prayers. They are prayers of someone who belongs to a faith community. I am at awe when I think about a little Jewish child, or an elderly Jewish lady, or a hard working Jewish father, saying Shema upon waking up or going to bed and saying it as a part of the community which is united by listening to the same Father in heaven. I am also at awe when I think about a little Christian child, or an elderly Christian lady, or a hard working Christian father, saying Our Father upon waking up or going to bed and saying it as a part of the community which is united by listening to the same Father in heaven.
My Dear Friends! There are people grieving at this time as they come to terms with what has happened in Niece but the greatest grievance is caused by realisation how divided our world has become. Various modern social and political structures which were to ensure the unity of human kind are collapsing. Why is the world so divided? Why are those modern social and political structures collapsing? As an answer to those two questions let me articulate this question: Are those various modern social and political structures the outcome of listening to the Lord?