October 4, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jonah 3:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 10:38-42)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord says to Martha that she is anxious and worried about many things but that there is only one thing that is necessary. That is the point we have to look at. We are anxious and worried about so much, but what we need is simply to pray and to trust. Beyond that, with all of the anxiety what tends to happen is that we get very much focused on ourselves. And because we are self-focused, as Martha was, she was saying, “Lord, notice me. Look at what I’m doing. Tell my sister to help me. Notice that she isn’t doing anything.” Well, the saints point out to us that what we are supposed to do is not to be worried about everyone else. For those people entrusted to your care, you need to be concerned about what it is that they are doing and you need to point out their faults in charity, but you do not need to worry about what everyone else is doing. What we need to be about is ourselves and making sure that what we are doing is what is right.
When Martha heard these words of Our Lord, she changed her life. She became a saint. She went from being somebody who was willing to serve but looking for attention, to someone who was willing to serve selflessly. So the question is “What is the call which God has given to you?” because that is what we have to be concerned about. If God is calling one person to serve in an active way then that is how they are going to glorify God. If He has called someone else to a contemplative kind of life then that is how they are going to glorify God. If He has called one to married life, another to single life, someone else to the religious life, someone else to priesthood, someone else to consecrated virginity, whatever, it is does not matter. What matters is that we know what God is asking of us and we are carrying it out, and that we all work together to build up the body of Christ. It is not a question of whether one is doing something more than another, or whether one vocation is better than another; if each one has a vocation from God then that is what is going to glorify God most perfectly and that is what is going to fulfill the individual most perfectly. We cannot compare and contrast; we cannot stand in judgment; that is not our task to do.
We need to be like the people of Nineveh. When they heard the Word of God, they repented. When Martha heard the Word of God, she repented. We live in a society that will not repent. Scripture has made very clear that when the various things happen, rather than repenting, the people are going to curse God for all of the plagues and difficulties and so on. So do not look at society and go where they go. Look at God and then ask yourself, “What is my own response? What is my decision?” It needs to be to change, to change to be like Jesus, to hear the Word of God and recognize where it is that we are lacking, not to try to justify ourselves in the areas that we might be doing well. God already knows that; He would not be pointing out our faults if there were not some there. So if He is going to speak to us and ask us to look at our own selves then we need to hear His Word and we need to repent, we need to change.
By changing, Martha did not stop serving – she stopped serving selfishly. It was not a call to Martha to change everything she was doing. In this case, it was a call to change the way she was doing it. That is the way each one of us must be as well, to make sure that whatever it is we are doing, that we are doing it for the glory of God and that we are doing it selflessly instead of selfishly. Just watch, as you go through the day, how many things you do for somebody else and start to think, “Well, I hope that they notice this. They’d better say something to me. I hope they’re grateful for what I’m doing for them,” and all these kinds of little things that go through our heads. Saint Paul says, Do it for the Lord rather than for men. We do not need to worry about what everybody else’s reaction is; we need to worry about why we are doing things and how we are doing things.
So we need to pray, we need to seek God’s Will, and then we need to carry out His Will selflessly. And wherever we see any kind of selfishness, then we need to repent and change the way that we do things.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.