Prayer Readies Us for Justice and Service

A Homily on Luke 10:38-42.

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

The word of God, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, says that at Jerusalem in the days of the first apostles the Hebrew Christians turned their backs on the impoverished Greek Christians instead of serving them.

Recognizing the duty to fight this evil of ethnic discrimination among Christians, the apostles changed the hierarchical structure of the Church.

Pick out from among you seven men whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of the word.

And so the apostles added deacons to the hierarchy of the Church to see to justice for the downtrodden.

Meanwhile, the apostles continued to devote themselves to prayer and the word of God.

Christians who fight injustice are also to be men and women of prayer.

Jesus had told Martha, There is need of … one thing, a first thing: prayer and the word of God.

With the apostles respecting that priority, while acting to eliminate the injustice of ethnic discrimination in the Church, the word of God in the Acts of the Apostles then says: the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Prayer, the word of God, justice for the downtrodden— these things led to great growth in the number of Christian believers.

Jesus had told Martha: There is need of only one thing.

Her sister Mary chose it, and the apostles chose it.

Without it, there is a lack of authentic Christian discipleship, a lack of authentic apostolic service, and a lack of authentic growth in the Church.

The foundations of Christian discipleship are prayer and attentive listening at the feet of Christ who is the Word of God.

Even as God the Word who was made flesh, Christ himself spent nearly the whole of his historic earthly life, about thirty years, in nameless invisibility, going at least weekly to the synagogue to pray, to listen there to the word of God and the teachings of rabbis.

Christ’s hidden decades of prayer, worship, and listening were preparation, training, and a foundation for his public life, the publicly visible final months of his being Savior of the World.

He spent only at most the last three years of his life in that public service.

When he first began publicly and then at last fulfilled his historic earthly mission, he did so by calling for conversion and for faith in the Gospel.

Conversion and faith need prayer and listening.

The Gospels show that during his public ministry he continued to give himself to frequent and lengthy prayer.

They also bother to comment that weekly synagogue attendance was his custom, as if he stood out because it was not everyone’s custom.

What prayer did in Christ’s earthly life and the beginnings of the Church it can continue to do for the Church today.

Without a solid life of prayer, the apostles— the first bishops of the Church— did not imitate Christ or lead the Church into justice and growth.

Without a solid life of prayer, parish priests and diocesan bishops turn into mere functionaries.

The same is true for all Christians in their own households.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

When we celebrate the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ, let us acknowledge him as the better part, the one thing of which There is need.

In his Eucharist, Christ is among us.

Let us there join Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him.

What he gives, speaks, and teaches us in his Body and Blood will not be taken from us, unless we ourselves ignore and neglect it.

Ongoing Conversion
Ongoing Conversion

Published by Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B.

Benedictine Monk and Priest of Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, California, in the Order of Saint Benedict

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