The Better Part – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Fr. Charles’ Homily July 21, 2019

“One of the themes of our scripture reading today is the them of hospitality and we see in the first reading from the book of Genesis how Abraham receives three strangers as his guest and he provides for them really rich hospitality, gives them a wonderful banquet and meets all of their needs.  Now the book of Genesis wants us to recognize these three strangers not as just ordinary people, but these three strangers are really God himself, God himself visiting Abraham and Sarah in their tent. Now this may be a foreshadowing for us of the teaching of the Trinity that will come later in Jesus’ life where there are really three persons and one God, but it’s also a teaching that when we provide hospitality to anyone particularly to strangers than we are providing service to our God.

Now this theme of hospitality is taken up in the Gospel, the familiar story of Martha and Mary and Jesus and Martha of course is burdened with many many things.  Well after all, Jesus didn’t come alone, he had twelve friends with him too and they can eat a lot and so Martha had a lot to do, so who blames her when she goes to Jesus and asks, ‘Will you tell my sister to help me?  She’s just sitting there doing nothing!’ And Jesus says, ‘Martha, Martha, though you have many worries and many different concerns, but only one thing is really important and Mary has chosen the better part. It shall not be taken from her.’  Now I think most women particularly, but men too who read this think Jesus was a little unfair, but he wasn’t. What he is wanting to say is that in our lives there needs to be a balance, a balance between useful service and activity, but also contemplation that it’s so important that we have this spiritual dimension in our lives otherwise our activities lose their meaning.  And so, what is this spiritual dimension? The first step in becoming a disciple of Jesus is to be open to the word of God, to listen to that word, to take that word in, to make it a part of our hearts, part of our lives, to grow in our study of the scriptures, to grow in our understanding and to making them personal. If you listen to the word of God and don’t take it personally, if you listen to the word of God and don’t see yourself in those scriptures, you’re missing the point.  They were written for you, not just for 2,000 years ago and the people then, they were written for today, for you and for me and I think this Gospel in a particular way has a meaning for modern society because we are so busy, we have so many irons in the fire. We can’t juggle as many places as we used to, but what is Jesus doing? He’s calling us to an open heart, to see that we can grow in our personal relationship with him. A couple of ways of doing it:

  1. Spending a little more time in personal prayer making sure that we have at least some time that we give to God alone in our day, 
  2. to spend a little time reading the scriptures, maybe the scripture for the day, maybe with a commentary to help us understand. 
  3. Maybe going to the Blessed Sacrament chapel and sitting before the Blessed Sacrament or coming into the Church here, the Eucharist is always present in the Tabernacle and the Church is open all day long.

There are many ways for us to grow in the spirit of contemplation that is so important for our lives.  There’s a story about an explorer in the United States who went down to Brazil and he organized an expedition with guides and porters to carry all their stuff, their scientific equipment that they needed and they took off into the jungle and they made really good progress the first day and then the second day they got up, took off into the jungle.  Great progress the second day, but the third day the explorer came out of his tent and everybody was sitting on their haunches. Nobody was getting ready for that day’s journey and so he called one of the guides over that spoke English and he said, “What’s wrong? Why are these porters not getting ready for today’s journey?’ And the guide said, ‘Oh something terrible, terribly wrong.  Our people will not move an inch today until their souls catch up with their bodies.’ My friends that might be good advice for you and me, not to do much until our souls catch up with our bodies.

I have a little prayer I’d like to share with you.  I entitled this prayer, The Better Part.

The better part O Jesus Lord
Is to sit down at your feet
To listen closer within my heart
To your words so true and deep

I am so busy with many things
I have a cluttered soul
With many concerns and many works
But I’m empty, make me whole

Help me focus on you O Lord
Giving you my full attention 
Spending a little time with you
Bring peace to all my tension

Instead of running all the time
Stop me, slow me down
So I may find you in my life
And by You that I be found

Show me what’s important Lord
What’s worthy of my heart
What is real and what is good
Grant me the better part”