Addressing the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis described the day’s liturgy, which presents us with the story of Martha and Mary, two sisters offering hospitality to Jesus in their home. The Pope recounts that Martha welcomes the guests whilst Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him until Martha turns to him and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we feel we are agreeing with her, said the Pope. Yet Jesus answers her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”.
Pope Francis noted that though it is a surprising answer, Jesus often overturns our way of thinking. “Let us ask ourselves then why the Lord, while appreciating Martha’s generous care, says that Mary’s attitude is to be preferred”, said the Pope.
The Pope went on to note that Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be duty first, pleasure second. “Hospitality is not made of fine words, but demands” that involve doing whatever it takes to make the guest feel welcome. “Jesus is well aware of this”, said the Pope, and he “acknowledges Martha’s effort” but he “wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities”.
Mary, the Pope said, has realised that there is a “better part” that must be given first place. “Everything else comes after”, he added. The better thing, he specified, “is listening to Jesus’ words”.
“The word of Jesus is not abstract, it is a teaching that touches and shapes life, changes it, frees it from the dullness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: it is the better part”, explained the Pope, and it is for this reason that Mary prioritises it. She stop and listens, and the rest will come later.
Pope Francis then went on to specify that this takes nothing away from the alue of practical commitment, which must flow from the word of Jesus and animated by his Spirit , “otherwise it is reduced to a fussing and fretting over many things, to a sterile activism”.
Take advantage of your time
Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis urged the faithful listening to “take advantage of this holiday season to stop and listen to Jesus”. He explained that today it is always more difficult to find free moments to meditate and for this reason the summer period can be precious to open the Gospel and read it slowly, without haste. “Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our our life is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says”, and in particular, he added, “let us ask ourselves: when I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God”?
Finally, the Pope prayed that the Virgin Mary “teach us to choose the best part, which will never be taken away from us”.