(16th Sunday Ord Time C Luke 10 38 – 42)
Martha and Mary – we know this bible passage – and it often causes indignation and resentment because of the apparent injustice Martha has to endure: How can Jesus dare to question the work and effort of Martha? Martha means it well with Jesus – just as we mean it well with the persons for whom we care, the persons that are entrusted to us. Martha is so occupied with caring for Jesus, that she does not even think of asking Jesus if he needs her care. She does not ask if what she does corresponds to what Jesus needs.
Do we not also take care of others, plan for others, decide for others, act for others without asking them? It is tempting to think you know what others need. This reduces the other to what we assess him or her. In the center of the action is the one who helps, while the other becomes an object of a “good deed”. The other is degraded to an object.
This should not be the case. Before doing something for someone, I must perceive the other person and his or her needs. I must perceive this beyond all expectations I have and beyond all selfish interests I have. True love of neighbor does not impose good deeds on someone – good deeds that might be unsuitable or inappropriate. So, if we depend upon the appreciation of our work – then something is wrong. If we do a good deed and we wait for a positive reaction – then something is wrong. Because then the good deed only reflects my own needs, and I do not act in order to help others for themselves.
Martha is a good example for this: "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me." For Martha it is absolutely clear: who works a lot is right – and she wants Jesus to confirm this. But Jesus acts differently: he proves the other sister right, Mary who “just” sits and listens. Jesus says: “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-- and I won't take it away from her." So, Jesus invites us to look at life from a different perspective.
Martha and Mary – aren’t they two sides within all of us? Both are necessary, none of them is more important than the other. Mary without Martha – this would be pious circling around ourselves without seeing the needs of the world around us. Martha without Mary – this would be “actionism”: you have to prove yourself by working and by doing and by achieving. Here love of neighbor may easily miss its point of putting the other in the center.
Maybe in most of us, Martha is better developed – the need to do something you can present is very strong. When we try to be silent, try just to sit, just to listen what God wants to say, what our life wants to say, what others want to say then there is this voice saying: “Wouldn’t it be better to do the most urgent things, to carry out more important things, to take care of this and that? Don’t sit around doing nothing!”
We are in summer, most of us have holidays – wouldn’t this be a good time to act a bit like Mary, to sit down, to listen, to see the world around us, to get in touch with ourselves, in touch with those we love? To be silent. Maybe we shall encounter resistance within us, we shall encounter an emptiness, an inner restlessness… Restlessness and resistances are important. They show that there is so much that comes between us and Jesus, between us and God, between us and our fellow human beings... They show that the balance between Martha and Mary within us is not in place. Restlessness and resistances show us that we might change our ways, that we might give our lives a different orientation. And I assure you that you may well enjoy some moments of deep inner calmness and peace. In these moments you may experience the deep truth of our story: It is enough to be before God and to let him look at us. We do not need to do anything to deserve God’s love – God’s love is just there – because God loved us into life.
Fr. Wolfgang Felber SJ
We all know this story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus invents this story to tell something very profound to his listeners. What is it about?
The starting point is the question of the expert in religious law: "Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?" The expert himself gives an answer that we all know: “You must love the Lord your God and you must love your neighbor as yourself.”
To us, 2000 years later, this is not surprising, but for the colleagues of this expert in the time of Jesus this was extraordinary. Luke makes the man say that there is a link between “love of God” and “love of neighbor”. This was not linked for the pious Jews at that time – “love of God” and “love of neighbor” were independent from each other. Luke makes the man say this so as to show the new point of view of Jesus: the human person is in the center, the human person is the place where you meet God because God himself became one of us.
Luke wants us no longer to look into the skies, but to look at our world as it is. Luke says: “Jesus wants you to find God not only in the temple, in the cult, but to find God in your neighbor, in other human beings. This is where you find your God!” Luke illustrates this somewhat “idealistic idea” by the story of the man who fell among the robbers. This story is a kind of program for a Christian life as it should be. And it is a pure provocation for the listeners of Luke’s gospel.
Luke presents three persons – they all show their attitude towards other human beings. They show their attitude towards people in need by their action. Two of them in a way that makes us shiver – they turn away. The message of Jesus is clear: “If you are looking for God honestly, if you want to love God, you can never avoid the human person beside you.” For Jesus, the “love of neighbor” is at least as important as the “law-abidance” the pious Jews proclaimed. Certainly, we know that Jesus does have clear ideas about the relation to God, what we are supposed to do and to avoid.
But the human being always comes first. This is the point of the story of the Good Samaritan. The relation to God for a Christian can only succeed via the human person. And this has marked the Christian culture. This is the measure for our Christian message. Our credibility as the Church of Jesus depends upon it.
There must not be any prejudices towards the human beings in this world from the side of the Church. There must not be any fear of contact with the human beings of our world. The Church needs to meet people at eye level. The Church often pretends to know the people of our time thoroughly because the Church pretends to have eternal truths about humanity. This is not enough. Humanity develops, our society develops, our knowledge develops – so the Church needs to be in contact with the world in order to get to know it.
The message of Jesus needs to have something to do with the people of our time. The liturgy we celebrate needs to have something to do with the life of the people.
I am happy that here in All Saints we have a structure that allows so much participation, that allows all of us to get together and celebrate together – here in the church building, but also in the community hall. This is what I read in today’s gospel: Jesus puts the human being in the center of our faith, in the center of our friendship with him. And: We need to open our eyes to the needs of others; they are the privileged way to God for us.
Fr. Wolfgang Felber SJ
June 10, 2018
Many years ago, I got a phone call from a psychiatric hospital. The doctors were at a loss what to do with a young woman from Africa who was mentally disturbed. When I told the lady that I was a priest and had been working in Africa for many years her face lit up and she told me her problem. Her aunt was utterly opposed to her living with a young man and had first threatened Many years ago, I got a phone call from a psychiatric hospital. The doctors were at a loss what to do with a young woman from Africa who was mentally disturbed. When I told the lady that I was a priest and had been working in Africa for many years her face lit up and she told me her problem. Her aunt was utterly opposed to her living with a young man and had first threatened her, then mistreated her and finally cursed her. Now, many of us might not worry much about a curse. But in some cultures, this is taken very seriously, and that young woman was out of her mind with the fear that she would die. I gave her the Gospel text of today to read which speaks of a rich and strong man who owns a house and another man who comes, ties him up and takes away everything he has. I explained to her that the strong man, the evil spirit, who scared her so much, could be defeated by the stronger man, who is Jesus. She had only to trust Jesus and no evil spirit could have any power over her. When I visited her two days later she was completely normal In some passages of the Gospel Jesus casts out evil spirits. He saw evil powers at work in the life of people and sometimes taking possession of them. He called Satan “the ruler of this world”. But he was also convinced that he was stronger than all powers of evil and had come to liberate people from these destructive powers and establish the rule of God instead. The bible sees history as a struggle of the light against the powers of darkness, of truth against the “father of lies”, of love against hatred. It is also a struggle in the heart of every person. If you are inclined to think that these are ideas of long ago which do not fit into modern times, just be aware that this struggle of evil against good is the stuff all great literature and every Sunday evening crime story is made of. It follows usually the same pattern: There are people living peacefully their everyday life till something terrible happens, e.g. a murder or some evil agent threatening to destroy the world. Then confusion tears people apart. Some are suspected of the murder, there are rumours and accusations. Finally, a saviour turns up in the form of James Bond or commissar X who uncovers the evil people and ties them up and restores the old order and security. Although we believe ourselves to be enlightened and to think scientifically the basic patterns of thinking are still the same. Only the way we image evil is culturally conditioned. Sometimes we are inclined to personify the power of evil and give it names like Satan or Bezebul. Modern people reject such ideas as a myth forgetting that myths do not describe facts, and yet contain basic truths. The truth is that evil is real and it has power over people and can possess them. Destructive ideas, thoughts and desires can become an obsession. People can have an obsession with personal power, e.g. dictators like in Syria who are ready to destroy their country and their own people. Others are obsessed by greed for money. Without any scruple they accumulate fortunes at the expense of those who have nothing. We might be obsessed by sexual compulsions, by feelings of jealousy and hatred ready to destroy our enemy. The power of evil that can enslave us takes many forms. The Good News is that there is someone stronger who can break the chains of false ideas and ideologies, of destructive feelings and compulsions and open our mental prisons. Jesus is stronger than all powers of evil. The closer we are to him the less evil can touch us, the freer we become. Jesus has already overcome the world. On Good Friday the powers of evil seemed to have won the battle. On Easter morning Jesus proved to be stronger. This victory we celebrate at every Eucharist when we profess: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again..
Fr. Wolfgang Schonecke, MAfr
Lentan Letter of Our Archbishop Heiner Koch
Berlin, on the first Sunday of Lent 2019
Ever more frequently, differences of opinion clash with ever more harshness. I observe this phenomenon in our civil society and just as much in our Church. Views are put forward with extreme rigor and with an amazing self-assurance that holds its own vision for absolute truth. Disagreeing ideas and convictions are at once disqualified as being provocatively irresponsible. Such an attitude fails to perceive that every point of view has its limitations. Nothing is perfect; very little may pass as self-evident; and against nearly all positions one can raise justifiable objections and criticism. Hence, I plead for a readiness to endure ambivalences and contrary ideas whatever decision may be at stake. Someone who allows only his or her personal conviction and turns a deaf ear to arguments coming from elsewhere, in fact maintains only one thing: „I have no need to learn anything. I know everything, and I can do without the experiences, insights and views of other people. “ With this idea in mind one causes harm to oneself and blocks one's own flourishing and development. All of us are in need of help and require the supplement of others. We need the richness of variety; we always need the process of learning from one another, because in mutual exchange we grow. Only in this way can we properly meet the many challenges with which we as Church are confronted in these days. Only together shall we find good answers and appropriate ways, from the variety of our different convictions and experiences. In one of the prayers of the missal we say: „To nobody you gave everything nor did you give nothing to anyone. “ We must recognize that for our life an attitude of mutual esteem is indispensable. This is more than mere respect and tolerance. When I esteem another person, I do not merely give due respect to the person's experiences and convictions, but I truly regard this person as someone valuable. Notwithstanding all differences, the other person enriches my own being. I attend to the other person because this person is a precious gift, a unique value, and that is why I esteem the person. I am considerate, trying with utmost care to enter this new world of thought and feeling, keen on understanding another human being. Saint Edith Stein, the Carmelite nun who was executed in Auschwitz, has taught me to hold dear this attitude of personal esteem. She describes it with the German word „Einfühlung“, a very sensitive feeling one's way into the inside of another person. In no other manner can one be able to perceive the depth of a human being. In this way, however, I permit the other personality to enter my life. So, I can share in the person's joy and inner life. This attitude expresses my respect for the other, my esteem of the whole personality, even my reverence. How many quarrels and disputes would be carried out differently and yield better worthwhile results, if we talked and dealt with one another in that attitude which I tried to describe. It is a matter of sincerely attending to others whoever they are, especially when we have problems with them and do not share their opinions and convictions. Especially in these cases of dissension our entire society and, in particular, our Church face a great challenge. We must learn to live in community. For we are a Communio, a gathering, a union with God, and in him a union with one another. The attitude of due respect for every person corresponds to God's own attitude towards each one of us: He attends to us lovingly and attentively, he never ceases to regard us with a benevolent eye. Only by living with one another and for one another shall we find Christ, and with him and through him find God, and draw nearer to him. God will always be a mystery that we can never comprehend. We will never fully understand his ways and procedures. This will be granted to us only at the very end, when „we will see him as he is. “(1 Jn 3:2) Until then we shall advance in the discovery of God only by means of our different visions and experiences. For this variety helps us to perceive him and keep him steadily in view. Therefore, we may say that this attitude of personal esteem becomes an effective and convincing way of proclaiming our faith: „See, how they love one another. “With this phrase the ancient author Tertullian (2nd century) describes the cohesion of the early Christian community. A proclamation without many words, but coming from the heart, will be understood by many. Therefore, let us meet one another in this attitude of sincere appreciation, especially in contacts with those near and dear to us, in the family, with friends, neighbors and colleagues, and in our parishes. For God's and his tender creatures' sake, I ask you to keep a loving attentive eye on our children. Pay attention to possible improprieties; notice any signs of abuse, hurt and trespasses. Be vigilant regarding such cases, and do not hesitate to voice your observations! Let me add that this is equally relevant for dealing with past incidents. In the Church and everywhere all of us together are responsible for the well-being and development of our children. Prevention concerns all of us; it demands this attitude of loving attention and respect. God became a child, and whenever a child is harmed, God is insulted. Moreover, also our pastoral process of renewing our ecclesial presence („Wo glauben Raum Gewinnt“) depends on this basis of a respectful encounter. We are on this road together, we must heed one another with care and be regardful for one another. Every community, every institution, every congregation and parish, every place of ecclesial activity receives attention and care. Each individual, just as every community and group, is important and precious. Only in this way can we succeed in bringing, by a colorful variety of ways and means, the gospel to the people that God has entrusted to our care. Let us be considerate and attentive in our contacts with colleagues and co-workers, with classmates and fellow students, with the cashier in the supermarket and the newspaper boy, the one whoever delivers the mail and parcels, the ticket controller and people in similar functions. Too often it happens that we fail to perceive them as human persons. The same caring attention ought also to be practiced in dealing with our time. Everyone is granted only a limited period of time here on earth. Let us be mindful of this gift and careful in its use. Some fill their time with lots of useless things. Others divide it in nothing but profitable activities. The question is: Are we conscious of time being a gift, and do we give enough of our time to one another? Hence, please, attend carefully to your time. For time is not money, but our life. In the near future we shall be called to the ballot box, for the European Parliament and the Landtag in Brandenburg. Elections too call for vigilant attention. We must carefully appreciate the riches and chances that Europe as well as our federal state have to offer. Consider attentively what contributes to the well-being of all of us, not forgetting the poor and those at the margin of society. Cultivate an open eye for situations that possess the potential to split our society by marginalizing and rejecting certain groups. Finally, please, take care of yourselves as well. I am aware of the many and often bitter challenges that strain your strength, be they demands coming from the family, your profession, the friends, burdens of illness, suffering and misery, from set-backs inflicted on you or hurtful disregard from your surroundings. I instantly beg you, please, be kind to yourselves too, as far as possible, and allow yourselves something pleasant and wholesome that is good for your body, for your mind, and not least also for your spiritual life! Your life with God deserves special care and attention. As in every loving relationship so in our relation with God, lack of sensitivity and attentive presence does no good. Never stop in your life to care for God. He always takes good care of you! Personally, for my part, I wish to thank you from my heart for keeping a watchful eye on me. I can draw much strength from knowing that I may be your bishop. I sincerely thank you for the many occasions to meet with you, for your support, and also for your prayers. I hope that these reflections can motivate you during the time of Lent to further develop this attitude of respectful and caring attention to the people you encounter, to yourselves too, as well as to God. I invite you to use this Lenten season as a period of training in this matter. Take time to be aware of its importance. Pay attention to your inner health, to the persons at your side, and to God. In this sense I wish you all the blessings of Lent.
+ Heiner Koch
April 1, 2018
The Church’s liturgy is decorated with variety of feasts and solemnities. The Easter celebration is one of them but it has a central position among the other celebrations. At the Easter vigil Christians all over the globe gathered at their churches to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord invoking all powers and ends of the earth to rejoice in these words: Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph! Be glad and let earth be glad, as glory floods her…… On this Easter morning we have gathered to declare with joy, Christ is risen! Alleluia. The catechism of the catholic church says: The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community: handed on as fundamental by tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament and preached as essential part of the paschal mystery along with the cross: Christ is risen from the dead! Dying, he conquered death; To the dead, he has given life. (CCC. 489). The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified. One of those manifestations is the Empty tomb. This was one of the astonishing discoveries made by the women at the early morning of the third day as they went out of love to anoint his body. They met his grave empty. The absence of Christ’s body from the tomb may not be a direct proof of resurrection nonetheless it is an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the resurrection. There are many other manifestations which we would be hearing in readings within the Eastertide. To understand the full meaning of the resurrection we need to look back to the Old Testament. In fact everything in the old covenant was but a pictorial prefiguring of what God was going to do in the resurrection of His son, Jesus. The resurrection is a re-cast of the Genesis account of creation- “coming into being”. In the word’s of St. Paul it is the resurrection of the last Adam (1 cor. 15:45). Here God breathed his life giving Spirit into man again (cf. Gen.2:7). Mankind is re-created in spiritual regeneration, becoming a new creature (2Cor.5:11; Gal.6:15) Resurrection recaptures the Exodus story- bringing mankind out of the land of slavery into the Promised Land. Mankind held in the bondage of Sin and death is brought back to life of freedom in Holiness. Christ’s coming out of the grave corresponds to Moses and his people coming out of Egypt, wherein the resurrection becomes the liberating exodus of salvation history. The reading of Exodus story is one of the principal readings at Easter vigil’s liturgy. The resurrection restructures the Torah. With the resurrection the external codification of the Law becomes an internal dynamic of life- the law written in the heart. This is foreshadowed in the prophesy of Jeremiah (Jer.31:31-34) In the New Testament, it is the central story and the climax of all the gospel narratives. Jesus kept talking about this event in his life. He declared to Martha I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). To the Jews in the temple he foretold that the temple of His body would be destroyed, but raised in three days (John 6:19-22), indicating that by His resurrection the new center of worship would be in Him. He becomes the New Temple of Humanity whose worshipers must do so in Spirit and truth. Christianity is not a message of merely what has been (past) and will be (future), it is the message of what is,- the vital dynamic of the risen Lord in our midst. It is the restoration of humanity whereby God functions once again in human history. It is the focal point of all human history. It is the transforming reality in light of which everything else must be interpreted. All meaningful human existence must be interpreted by this earth-shattering, death-defeating reality of Jesus’ resurrection. He has risen as he promised and he lives in our midst. His presence symbolized with the paschal candle radiates in the world. We look us to his light to guide us. With his resurrection you are made a new creation, because we died with him we have resurrected with him. This very fact is based on our baptism. That means you and I are “re-created beings” in Christ. We are the new creation. The old has passed away. In his homily on Easter Vigil in 2006 Pope (emeritus) Benedict XVI says “The resurrection is not a thing of the past, the resurrection has reached us, and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand thus we hold on to one another’s hands. And we become one single subject not just one thing. I; but no longer I, this is the formula of Christian life rooted in baptism, the formula of the resurrection within time: I but no longer I. If we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a program opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and corruption. With the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord we declare that death has not the last word over us, we declare that wars and destruction of human resources have not the last word, suffering, hunger and sickness have not the last word, quarrels and disunity have not the last word, darkness has not the last word. The end story of lives is Glory. With faith we hold on to this truth. Alleluia!
Fr Sylvester Ajunwa
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