My Dear friends in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Part of the message of the readings for this Sunday is the importance of hospitality. Being your new pastor, I want to thank everyone who has made me feel welcome to these parishes. Fr. Huber told me good things about you and I look forward to getting to know you over the next few years. I hope you will allow me to provide hospitality for you in the same measure that you have measured it out to me.
There’s a story told about an abbot of a monastery looking over all the monks in his monastery trying to decide which one should replace him. Brother Dominic, the person in charge of the kitchen, was very dependable, hard-working, and respected by the brothers. He was generally up before all the other monks getting the food ready for breakfast and stayed late in the kitchen getting ready for the next day. The abbot was so impressed with Brother Dominic that he often thought of giving him an assistant to help him with the work but he knew both that the number of monks didn’t allow for a second person and that Brother Dominic wouldn’t have wanted someone else around to have to supervise. The abbot also thought of Brother Francis who was the most deeply spiritual man he had ever met. Brother Francis, who worked in the small print shop with two other monks, would spend many hours in the chapel each day praying long after the other monks had left. His motto was that work can wait for prayer. The other monks all wished they had as deep a spirituality as Brother Francis, even if they sometimes had to do the work that he had neglected in favor of prayer. They felt privileged just to be in his presence.
The abbot decided to switch things up a little. He put Brother Francis in charge of the kitchen and Brother Dominic in charge of the print shop. After just one day, the entire monastery was frustrated. The monks were all starving because Brother Francis never did get the food cooked and the two monks in the print shop were frustrated because Brother Dominic had done a month’s work in a day and seemed to be changing everything. After just one LONG day, the abbot switched things back to the way they were confident that he knew who his replacement should be.
One commentator that I read summed up the issue from today’s readings in these words, “Is true hospitality found in giving personal attention to the guest rather than in being distracted from that person by the duties associated with hospitality?” In some ways, it would seem that Jesus is saying that one should definitely neglect household duties when a guest is over. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. And yet, as many women have commented to me in the past, if all we had in church was a bunch of people who spent all their time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, our structures would be in pretty bad shape.
The real lesson that Mary understood is that, at that moment and in this situation, she needed to be at the foot of Jesus more than she needed to be in the kitchen preparing food for him. In the Gospel of Luke, there’s a point when Jesus turns his entire attention toward the cross in Jerusalem. Along the way, he stops in the houses of important individuals including Mary and Martha. While there, he wants to spend time with them and tell them all about what’s going to happen to him but Martha is so busy preparing the meal, that she misses who whole point of his visit. It actually kind of reminds me of a friend that I hadn’t talked to for a long time who called me a couple of months ago. I was kind of excited to hear from him but he was so busy working on his computer while we talked that I kind of felt like I was talking to myself. I wished that, in this situation, he would have been a little more willing to listen to what was happening in my life and been willing to tell me about his own instead of being distracted by his computer.
In the end, the Abbot realized that neither Brother Dominic nor Brother Francis would be good for the job. He needed someone who could be a prayerful worker, someone who could balance the demands of life with the important work of prayer. As I begin this assignment in these six parishes, I ask for your prayers that I may cultivate this same sense of balance in my own life and be the best father I can be.