16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”
“Mary has chosen the better part …”
Until last summer I thought being successful meant having a
prestigious job, money, and great fame. During a 10 day period
my grandpa taught me a new definition, the one God has in
mind for us. Strangely enough, he did so without saying a word.
"Now, son,” Grandpa said (he always begins a serious talk that
way), “this country is not going to collapse if something goes
wrong with this oil field. It doesn’t produce thousand barrels a
week, but, son, they hired me to be dam sure that it produces all
the oil it can. As long as the good Lord sustains my health,
that’s what I’m going to do. I expect you to do the same.”
For five days, Grandpa drilled me on every detail of what I was
to do around the oil field while he was gone on his first vacation
in 10 years. Once, near the end of my five-day learning
session, I tried to teach Grandpa a new way to figure out the oil
charts that he maintained, by using algebraic principles. He was
very impressed, but the concept totally confused him.
“Son,” he said, “your grandpa isn’t Alfred Einstein when it
comes to math. You must be pretty smart though, boy, to know
how to mix them letters and numbers to get the right answer.
They teach you that in school?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered. “But it’s Albert Einstein, Grandpa, not
Alfred.” “Well, I am not him neither.” We both laughed.
I was glad when the day came for Grandpa to leave. For the
next 10 days, I would have his house and oil field all to myself.
I figured it would be easy to fill Grandpa’s shoes; I was wrong.
The first morning after I gauged the amount of oil in the tanks, I
drove home to call in the information. Promptly at 8 am, as
instructed, I made my morning call to the main office.
“Good morning,” I said. “I am calling in Charlie Leonard’s
daily reports.” “Oh,” the female voice shot back excitedly, “you
must be Mike.” “Yes, Ma’am,” I said. “How did you know?”
“Your grandfather always talks about you, Mike. He really
loves you. To tell you the truth, I don’t know anyone your
grandfather doesn’t love. Whenever I’m feeling down, he’ll
say, “Now, Bea, God’s word says, “All things work together for
the good of them that love the Lord.” He always encourages me
to place my faith in God. I don’t know what I’d do without
him.” Grandpa never told me about that part of his job. Slowly I
was beginning to understand what he really did for a living.
That same evening, while watching television, I heard a feeble
knock on the door. Opening the door, I saw a gray haired, withered
old woman. “Who are you?” the lady’s voice cracked.
“I’m Charlie Leonard’s grandson,” I said. “I’m tending to his
job while he’s away.” “Well,” she mumbled, “I sure hope the
doctors can find out what’s wrong.”
“I am sure he’ll be fine,” I said. Her eyes started to water. “I
hope so,” she said, “he’s about all I got left.” I realized then
that my grandpa did not just spend his days fiddling around
some forgotten oil patch. He invested his time in more precious
product – people. I had already met three who had been blessed
by his investment, and as the days passed I met others.
The day Grandpa returned, I rushed to meet him. I hugged him
before he could get out of the car. “Grandpa,” I exclaimed,
“you’re the greatest man I know!” “Thank you, son,” he said,
“but I just produce oil.”
“No, Grandpa,” I answered, “you produce love, a thousand
barrels a week.” As I carried in his luggage, I dreamed of being
as successful as my grandpa. Success to me now is having a job
helping others, making friends, and having a great faith in God.
In the world, the poor serve the rich, the slave serves the master,
the weak serve the strong, but in Jesus we see a transvaluation
of values. It is the strong that serves the weak. Serving
others becomes a sign of strength, not weakness. Hence, Jesus
is in our midst as the one who serves and gives His life as a
ransom for many.
Service becomes the best expression of an inner greatness. Service
is a formal expression of a sincere faith in God. But service
loses its taste whenever those who serve begin to complain. Martha
was kind to attend to Jesus, but it was not until Martha complained
about her sister Mary that her service lost its import.
By complaining, Martha sees her role as superior to that of
Mary who was listening to the word of God. While Martha
considered food and drink as more important, Mary sees greatness
in the word of God. Ultimately, food and drink did not
bring inner peace to Martha, but the word of God did.
Why do we judge people by the work they do? God does not
judge us by the work we do. God looks at the beauty of the
human heart. We, like Martha, fail if the work we do does not
make us more loving, caring and compassionate.
Service devoid of inner peace and joy becomes nothing but
slavery. Producing oil did not bring grandpa the inner peace he
enjoyed. It was grandpa’s love for God and his fellow human
beings that transformed his work from labor to a ministry.
True service is selfless. It brings peace and joy to the one who
serves and generates the desire to do more rather than less. By
seeking for Mary's assistance, Martha expressed an inner desire to
do less. Her service becomes nothing but a mere routine, which
is a prototype of the attitude of the Pharisees.
True service ought to be founded on the word of God. Mary
chose the best by listening to His word so that her service may
be truly enriched and informed by the grace of God. Service is
honorable, but service that is solely informed by human ego
ultimately becomes a disservice. This is the trap that Jesus
wanted Martha to avoid. As we serve, let us be conscious of
whose interest we serve.