Chapter 58: Two Faces of Service

(The third banquet in Luke)

Luke 10: 38 – 42

This intimate dinner party is placed immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember that the Priest, the Levite, the wounded man, and the Samaritan were all on their way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Presumably all had been to the temple to pray and offer service to God. For their devotion they are worthy of our admiration. However it is only the Samaritan who pours wine and oil on the wounds of the victim. This symbolic action of offering sacrifice gives full meaning to Jesus’ call, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” (Mt 9: 13)

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks;

so she came to Jesus 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.”

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.

Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke continues to call us to us to a deeper and more meaningful spirituality. Mary welcomes Jesus, the Word, into her home and heart. She has already heard the Word of God. It is Mary’s turn, perhaps for the first time, to listen to God’s Word. “The Word of God is the first source of all Christian Spirituality. It gives rise to a personal relationship with the living God, and with his saving and sanctifying will.”   (John Paul ll, 25 March 1996)

Here is a diagram of illustrating what this text tells us about the centrality of the Word in our spiritual lives.

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Love is vitally important. It matters little where you start or finish. In line with John Paul’s teaching, the Word of God is essential. Is it?

“It is especially necessary that listening to the Word of God should become a life-giving encounter.. Which draws from the biblical text the living Word which questions, directs and shapes our lives.” (Starting Afresh from Christ 2002 (24))

“Martha was distracted by her many tasks.” This echoes the parable of the seed. “As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches an pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit.” (Lk 8: 14)

The occasion of this dinner party was Mary’s chance to listen to the Word. Martha should have accepted Mary where she was in her spiritual life, giving her space and time. When our service becomes heavy, a burden and lonely then the fruits turn sour.

“There is need for only one thing only”, “Bear fruit, bear more fruit, bear much fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15)

Why did the guest come to dinner? “He wants the assurance that people think it worthwhile to take time to listen to what he has to say. Before his disciples are doers of the Word, they are hearers of the Word. For if the Word of God is unheard in the disciples’ lives then it will be unspoken in their lives as well.

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