SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gen 18:1-10; Ps 15:2-5; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42 ]

Many of us find life in a modern city very competitive and hectic.  Everyone is so busy with so many commitments and projects.  We are in this rat race, pursuing excellence, seeking one thing after another, one degree after another.  Over and above what we do in our work or responsibilities, we are supposed to give our time to social and community work, whether in church or in an NGO.  Some of us are burnt-out.  We know that we are on the verge of burn-out when we become edgy, irritable, angry, resentful and losing passion and zeal in what we are doing.  When we feel that our efforts are futile and we have nothing else to give or to value add to an organization or the work we do, we are suffering burn-out syndrome.  Eventually we give up completely, falling into depression.

This was the case of Martha in the gospel.  She was attending to the Lord.  She had good intentions of offering Jesus the best of hospitality, providing for His needs, preparing food for His meal.  She wanted attention from the Lord but He was giving attention to Mary, or rather, it was Mary who was giving personal attention to the Lord, sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to Him.  Exasperated, “Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.'”

Indeed, so many of us are distracted by so many things in life that we lose focus on what life is and what we are called to do in life.  We are driven by the crowd.  We follow the herd.  We are chasing one thing after another.  We think that life is all about success and ambition.  Some think that life is all about enjoyment and pleasures.  Some think that life is all about social and charitable work.  Some just drift through life without any real purpose or orientation.  Many of us live fragmented lives.  We cannot see the thread that runs through all that we are doing.  Our activities seem to be rather disjointed.  They are just done for the sake of doing.  This is why we lack passion and conviction in our work, family life, relationships and in our faith as well.

This is simply because we do not know who we are and what we are called to be.  Our identity and destination determine how we live our lives meaningfully and purposefully.  This was what St Paul felt called to do.  He, too, was very successful in his early life as a teacher and rabbi.  He was a strict Jew, meticulous in observing all the laws.  But his life was empty till he met Christ at Damascus.  That event changed his whole life and orientation.  Having rediscovered his true identity and his goal in life, he felt the Lord’s call to reveal the same to us all.  That was what he wrote in today’s second reading.  “I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.”

Indeed, God’s purpose is to reveal His divine plan for us and for humanity in and through Christ.   He is the revealer of the Father and His plans for us all.  He is also the revealer of our true humanity as well.  “The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history.”  (GS 10)  We are called to be the glory of Christ by becoming perfect in Him.

Christ, then, is our exemplar of how can we live our lives meaningfully and joyfully.  The joy of life is when we make our hearts open to welcome others into our lives.  In the final analysis, it is not pleasure that will satisfy us because the moment our physical and sensual needs are satisfied, we feel bored.  Neither is happiness in life a matter of achievements, finding success in our work or business.  Glory and wealth alone cannot make us happy.  In fact, they can make us distance ourselves from people because of insecurity, pride and arrogance.  Rather, happiness is to make friends with what we have in life.  Jesus in His life used all His resources, wealth, time and energy to help people, to enrich others and to heal them.  He came as a servant to serve all.

This was the case of Abraham, Mary and Martha in today’s scripture readings as well.  We read of Abraham’s great hospitality in welcoming the three men to his tent.  He was a generous host.  He brought water to wash the feet of his guests and provided a banquet for them.  He went beyond the customary hospitality that was required.  This was also the case of Mary and Martha.  Both were equally welcoming to the Lord, each in their own way.  For Mary, she felt that what the Lord needed was her presence and her attentiveness to what He wanted to share with them.  For Martha, she was more concerned about His physical and material comfort and needs.  But nonetheless, both were welcoming.

In welcoming people into our lives, we are welcoming Christ without knowing it.  Little did Abraham know that in welcoming the three men, he was welcoming God into his tent.  And this is the truth about offering friendship and hospitality to strangers.  Very often, in welcoming people into our homes and circle of friendships, we feel inconvenienced and unsettled because our routine is upset.  Yet, by allowing others to enter into our lives, not only do they feel welcomed and loved, but we are also enriched by their sharing and by their lives.  What we give to them in terms of time and resources, they bless us with their presence and expand our horizon in understanding and appreciating life.  We grow in wisdom and understanding.  In welcoming the three strangers, Sarah was blessed with a child from God!

Indeed, we must be generous in offering friendship, especially to those who are lonely and without friends, especially those who are strangers in our community, particularly the migrants.  Jesus saw the importance of friendship for He was a good friend of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  He loved them and so when Lazarus died, he broke down and wept.  (cf Jn 11:5, 13)  Such was the close friendship that Jesus had with them.  We, too, must not just extend hospitality but friendship to those who are new in our community.  We must take the trouble to welcome new members to our community instead of being so absorbed with the rest of our friends, making the newbies unwelcome, whether in our organization or office.  Only in building true friendship can we experience the love of God in our midst.

That is why we must be the glory of Christ and His hope in us.  St Paul in the first reading speaks of completing the sufferings of Christ in His body.   “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.”  We must allow Christ to be formed in us and be made perfect in Him so that His glory and hope will shine through us.    

To be good friends to others, the responsorial psalm says that we must live in the presence of the Lord.  We must focus our lives on Christ so that we can refocus ourselves.  Hearing the Word of God as Mary did is the key to truly loving the Lord and serving Him.  Otherwise we become restless, like Martha, and distracted in the process of entertaining our guests, looking after the welfare and needs of those under our charge.  Instead of showing welcome to our guests, our hearts are preoccupied with other interests.  Anxiety and preoccupation prevent us from opening our hearts to others, including our spouse and loved ones.  That is why we must learn from Mary who had chosen the better part.  It is not what we do for God or for others that matters, but how we listen to each other, feel with each other, and then we can better care for each other’s real needs rather than the perceived ones.

So let us live a balanced life.  We should not be simply caring for others, working all day and night, but we must take time out for ourselves.  We need time to pray, to rest and to be alone with the Lord so that we can spend quality time with others.  We need time to learn and to grow.  We, too, must learn to receive and not just to give.  Even the Lord was able to receive from others.  It is not enough to care for others; we must allow others to care for us as well.  This is what friendship is all about, giving and receiving, loving and being loved.  Hence, we need to examine our priorities again.  It is true that we have many things to do, but unless we know what are the essentials and what are not, we would be running frantically trying to do everything and getting ourselves all stressed up and upset others.  What is that one thing that is most necessary for us if we want to be truly loving people? Choosing God first will give us the strength and the capacity to love authentically and serve joyfully.  Only the Word of God can give meaning to all our activities.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.

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