When we sat down for Mass yesterday, Bill picked up the missal to familiarize himself with the readings. He leaned over and whispered to me, “Today’s gospel is one of your favorites.” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or serious.
Really, he was being both. It is one of my favorites, but also one that makes me squirm. It was St. Luke’s version of the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus says we’re all supposed to be Marys, but every time I hear the gospel, I know in my heart of hearts that I am very often more like Martha.
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?” Martha asks Jesus. Apparently not, because he tells her Mary’s made the better decision to sit around and listen. That’s when I always want Martha to say, “Perhaps, but just who’s supposed to make the hummus, hmmm? And I suppose you think the wine will pour itself.”
The Old Testament reading and the Gospel were both about hospitality. In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we are told that three men appeared to Abraham one hot day. Abraham runs up to the three strangers and insists that they stay for dinner. He then runs into the kitchen and tells his wife Sarah to bake some rolls and make it snappy. The Bible leaves specifics out of most stories, but I am nearly certain that Sarah was thinking, “I HATE when Abe invites people to dinner without checking with me. I was just about to finish that article in the Mesopotamia Gazette and it’s the hottest day of the year. I don’t feel like baking.” The passage goes on to say that the men told Abraham that when they come back next year, Sarah will be pregnant. If she overheard, she might have thought, “Not if he keeps inviting unexpected guests that require me to bake.”
The readings made me recall two things about my grandmother. She and Gramps immigrated from Switzerland so English wasn’t their first language. She spoke really good English. However, occasionally, something would come off just a bit off. Like the time she invited her visitor into her home, and told them, “Make yourself homely.”
My second thought about Grammie was that whenever we were stressed or grieved or anxious, she would say, “You need to eat a little something.” It was her answer to difficult times. She grew up learning that hospitality was the name of the game, no matter the circumstances.
There was a time when cooking big meals for my family was a joy. I still like to cook, but I have learned that as we age, things just get a bit more difficult. I don’t know if the Bible ever tells us the ages of Martha and Mary, but maybe Mary was tired of cooking, and wanted nothing more than to listen to Jesus and hear the sound of dishes being washed in the background by her younger sister.
It’s a possibility, isn’t it?