Memorial St. Francis of Assisi

Today’s Scripture Readings

Galatians 1:13-24, Psalm 139: 1-3, 13-15, Luke 10:38-42

I think the Psalm response this morning is our best guide for talking about the readings. It says, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.” I think that’s what happening for both Paul and Mary and Martha. It’s what happened to a rich kid who renounced his wealth to live as St. Francis the street beggar and in crucial ways rebuild the church. It is, of course, what happens for us too if we listen and examine what life presents for us.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he is giving them a little background on his life’s story. He was a Jew persecuting Christians until God reveals Jesus to him. After that he begins proclaiming Jesus to the Gentiles. What a shift! That’s an amazing change, a full 180 degree turn to go the opposite direction. He goes from persecuting Christians to converting people to Christianity.

I think it simply demonstrates that you can never really tell where God might take you. For Mary it seems a lot simpler. She decides to sit by Jesus instead of doing the usual work of serving. Mary having met Jesus responds by wanting to listen to what he says. Clearly Luke wants to emphasize that Mary has chosen the better part. But I don’t think we should try to draw broad conclusions about the relative value of physically active work versus reflective, contemplative processes. The immediate point to the story is Mary’s decision to give her time to Jesus instead of doing what another person expected her to be doing.

Sometimes we are presented with an opportunity that demands attention. Sometimes a blessing, a gift, is bigger than what we, and perhaps others, have considered our obligation. Remember the Psalm response, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.” The way may not be what we expect. Personally, I think the challenge is to decide if what is presented will bring us closer in our relationship with God or not. Which for me is measured by whether I’m happier and more at peace with myself. For Mary, she probably returned to help her sister after Jesus left. But for the time Jesus was there, she did not hesitate to just sit and listen. To take advantage of the moment.

Let us also not forget that this behavior breaks the social norms of the time and would probably have been ridiculed by more than a sister. Women weren’t involved in education and, in fact, had no standing or rights to own anything except through a husband or son. Mary was taking a risk and Jesus is saying something about the equality of women. Women, and all people without power, deserve to hear God’s word, they have a right to sit at the table too and not just be servants, something very radical and probably upsetting at the time.

“Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.” It’s a very good prayer. Guide me Lord. God surely has the best perspective on which is the best path for us each day. However, I also was caught by the last two words, the “everlasting way.” It suggests there will always be something coming, something new, an unexpected path opening up. Karl Rahner, a renowned Jesuit theologian, claimed that even in heaven we would be on a journey, forever getting closer to God, never arriving at complete union with God but always, always on the way, closer and closer. For us it is the way to keep life interesting and exciting, perfectly guided on that everlasting way.

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