Mistakes we do, can turn out to be quite hilarious. A bishop was rushing to catch a train when in his haste he hopped in the wrong passenger compartment that was full of inmates from a mental hospital. They were all dressed in mental hospital garb.
Just as the train pulled out of the station, a hospital assistant came in to count the inmates, “1-2-3-4,” when suddenly he saw the bishop, dressed in his clergyman suit and clerical collar and he said: “Who are you?” The answer came back: “I am the Bishop of Halifax!” And the assistant said: “Yea, yea… 5-6-7-8.”
The point of the story is simple. It is vitally important in any human relationship to know what makes us tick and what makes other people tick. We need to understand ourselves and others if we want to walk peacefully together.
There is a story in the Gospel of Luke that many times has been misinterpreted. It is the story of Martha and Mary. Many believe that it is a simple story about rearranging our priorities in life – praying more and working less. Mary is the contemplative soul, the one who is always eager to stay near Jesus, and Martha is the active type, always busying around doing something.
The story is deeper. Jesus being the ‘friend of man’ wants to bring out a negative attitude that is in all of us, a mind set that is at the root of all broken relationships, be it marriage, friendship, parents-children, priest-parishioners.
Jesus loved Martha. They were good friends. That day, when he looked at her, he immediately noticed some warning signals, a red flag.
All of us need to be loved and appreciated. The various mishaps that we had as we grew up created deep inside us a deep hole that desperately needs to be filled. We live all our lives begging for love… ‘Please care for me, look at me, see what I am doing, appreciate me…’ In life, what needs to be analyzed is not what we do but why we do it, the deep motivation that drives us. And what drives us is this instinctive yearning to be loved.
Martha was sacrificing herself trying to have the house ready for the guests… sweeping, cooking, plates, linen… Great! Hospitality is sacred in a Jewish milieu. So why does Jesus censure her?
He censures her because he wants her to realize that the incentive that was pushing her to do all this was sick. Basically she was looking for her own gratification! And how can one determine this? Look at the way she is reacting. Judging, criticizing and grumbling!
If she cared about Mary, she would have let her do what the heck she wanted to do! Instead no… “Jesus, tell her to get up and do something! This is ridiculous… I am killing myself and she is just lazing around listening to you!”
This is the root of all our relationship conflicts. I want to be loved. She wants to be loved. I make certain demands. She makes other demands. And we live all our lives, interiorly or exteriorly, measuring and assessing the other person.
The wife says to the husband, “You must love me, you have to give me money, you must be faithful to me, you must do this.” And the husband to his wife: “You must do the housework, you must keep my clothes clean, you have to do this for me because this is the law.” So they do violence to each other to fulfill the law.
A way out? Yes… “There is need of only one thing” Jesus says! What is this one thing? That someone fills this empty chasm that is in us. If we are filled with love, we do not need to be loved. If our car is filled with gas, we do not need to fill it!
“Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” She has found the solution.
What Christianity announces is audacious and provocative. Jesus Christ is the only one who can fill our hearts because He is the only one who is able to love us without demanding anything from us.
When we were rude, violent, arrogant, lustful… he did not kick us in the ass and sent us to that place, as we deserved. He just told us, ‘I love you still!’
This yes fills any heart…
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.