No vacation from God

One of my favorite activities to do on Monday morning is to see what Pope Benedict XVI has to say about the Sunday Gospel reading. Tracking down the weekly pre-Angelus catechesis is part of my preparation for my radio show, but mostly it’s a personal exercise that really helps me apply the Gospel to my daily life. 

Pope Benedict has a way with words that really resonates with me, and his July 18 reflection on the Gospel reading surrounding Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary did not disappoint. 

We still have plenty of summer left, and many of us are planning to take a vacation. The pontiff connected this time of year with the story of Martha and Mary by reminding us that our get-away time should not be all about the “get up and go” attitude so prevalent in our culture today.

“We can almost see the scene,” the pope said. “One sister who moves about busily, and the other entranced by the presence of the teacher and by his words.” 

We shouldn’t be so busy in the planning of our holiday or in the filling up of our free time with activities that we end up taking a vacation from God. It is easy to lose sight of the real meaning of something when we get so caught up in the details. We should instead use the time to refocus on Jesus and on Scripture, the pope explains. 

What I really enjoyed about the pope’s commentary on the excerpt from St. Luke’s Gospel was his ability to understand where Martha was coming from as well. He relates Martha to many of us who want to give the best for those we care about, whether it’s the unforgettable trip of a lifetime or a great meal on the patio.  

After all, stop for a moment and put yourself in Martha’s shoes. If Jesus were physically walking the earth today and decided to come by your house for food and fellowship, wouldn’t you want to put out a spread that would easily make the cover of Bon Appetit magazine? It is not every day that the King of Kings drops by for dinner.  

This is a pretty big deal and no easy task to accomplish, even with all the modern conveniences we have at our disposal. 

So there is Martha, trying to make sure only the best is put before the Lord. She’s doing all the work, and there’s not a food processor or a microwave to be found. And there’s her sister, sitting there and doing nothing, or so Martha thinks. 

Having been to the Holy Land as many times as I have, I know firsthand how the people there still take hospitality very seriously. Providing a delicious meal is a way of showing how much they care. That’s why Pope Benedict points out that Jesus is not condemning Martha for her efforts, but is simply trying to show her that she is not looking at the situation correctly and that her efforts will take on that much more meaning if she allows herself to just be still and focus on Jesus. 

As the pope told the audience gathered to hear him speak: “The word of Christ is very clear; no contempt for the active life, none either for generous hospitality; but a clear call back to the fact that the only true necessary thing is another; listening to the Word of the Lord; and the Lord in that moment is there present in the person of Jesus.” 

How many times have you come home after a summer break and felt like you needed a vacation from your vacation? Pope Benedict is hoping we’ll learn from Martha and Mary, and especially Jesus. 

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 10:41-42). 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.