04 Oct. Tuesday of the 27th Week
Or: Feast of St Francis of Assisi (Memorial)
readings for St Francis of Assisi” Sir 50:1,3-4,6-7; Gal 6:14-18; Mt 11:25-30
The leader of his brothers and the pride of his people
was the high priest, Simon son of Onias,
who in his life repaired the house,
and in his time fortified the temple.”
In his days a water cistern was dug,
a reservoir like the sea in circumference.”
He considered how to save his people from ruin,
and fortified the city against siege.”
Like the morning star among the clouds,
like the full moon at the festal season;”
like the sun shining on the temple of the Most High,
like the rainbow gleaming in splendid clouds;”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In a recent article on St Francis, Patron of Ecology, Seán McDonagh SSC reminds us that Francis was named as the Patron of Ecology, by pope John Paul II, who went on to declare how love and care for creation is a challenge for contemporary Catholics. We should not “behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but assume responsibility for it, so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment to those who come after us.” The present pope has also praised the poor man of Assisi as an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation… He sees Francis as witnessing that when we are at peace with God we are better at building “that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.”
Fr McDonagh portrays St Francis as “pushing the boundaries for us today, to reconsider and broaden our understanding of the gospel question: Who is my neighbour? since for him the concept of “neighbour” includes, not only the human race, but the whole of creation. This feast invites us to a “fellowship” approach to creatures and a deeply respectful way of caring for God’s creation. He cites the graphic religious imagery of American writer and farmer Wendel Berry in his book, The Gift of Good Land: “To live we must daily break the body and shed the blood of creation. When we do it knowingly, lovingly, skilfully and reverently it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily and destructively it is a desecration. In such a desecration we condemn ourselves to moral loneliness and others to want. ”
The Ferial Readings are:
Jonah 3:1ff. At the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh and their king repent and so save their city.
Luke 10:38ff. Jesus defends Mary’s receptivity, while Martha busied herself with the hospitality.
How Much Activity?
While good intentions can drive one to overactivity and even to misguided zeal, the Scriptures defend human activity and good works as essential to salvation. For interpreting today’s scripture readings we must keep in mind this healthy balance between contemplation and action, and remember that each of us reflects, simultaneously, Martha and Mary, Paul and Peter, Jonah and the the Ninevites. Each of these becomes a symbol for us. This outlook does not deny their individual reality but enshrines Paul’s view that “everything in the Scriptures was written for our instruction” (Rom 15:4).
Jonah was a man of action, though not always good action. As we saw yesterday, when ordered to Nineveh to preach repentance he acted promptly but in the wrong direction. He could have avoided all trouble by ignoring the Lord’s command and sleeping his life away at home in Israel. In Galatians Paul too is a man of action, always at the eye of the hurricane. And in, Martha is like others in Luke’s rendition of the Good News, who threw parties, beginning with Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (4:39) and including the father of the prodigal son (15:22-24), Zacchaeus the tax collector (19:5-6) and Jesus’ own preparations for the Last Supper (22:7-13). Silent contemplation is the exception, not the rule, in the Old and New Testament.
In the Book of Jonah repentance did not consist simply in the ritual acts of sackcloth and ashes. All persons were required to “turn from their evil ways,” a phrase repeated twice in this short book, and therefore essential for true conversion. Both ritual and moral action were expected. In Galatians(*2), Paul was not converted in order to spend his life in prayer but rather to “spread among the gentiles the good news of Jesus.” Martha, too, fits the pattern of many good, active people in the Gospel of Luke.
Still, the role of Mary begins to emerge as also a valid option. First of all, note how Moses, the founder of biblical religion, ascends into the clouds as he went up on mount Sinai and “stayed there for forty days and forty nights” (Exod 24:18). Later we are told that during his time spent in writing the law, Moses refrained from “eating any food or drinking any water” (Exod 34:28). The king of Nineveh also called for fasting, penance and prayer on the part of everyone, to draw close to god. In the case of Paul, we learn that immediately after his conversion he went off to Arabia, where in silence and prayer, he lived with the Lord Jesus. This may have been the time and place when he was “snatched up to Paradise to hear words which cannot be uttered, words which no one can speak” (2 Cor 12:4). He read and re-read the Scriptures, so that when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, his words form a filigree of earlier prophetical passages, especially from Jeremiah and the Songs of the Suffering Servant.
Turning to the gospel, we are not surprised at Jesus’ words to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better portion.” In a very true sense, Jesus was speaking to the “Mary spirit” that should exist in Martha and belongs to each of us. It is not good to be so active as to be “anxious and upset.” Then, we are always in need to be reminded of the secret, inner vision of our lives.
The “better portion,” praised by Jesus in no ways makes the other portion unimportant or unnecessary; it makes our activity full of spirit and soul, direction and wisdom, love and concern. We each need to be both Martha and Mary.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”