It amazes me when I run into a fellow cradle Catholic with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible. Or rather, it would. I’ve never actually run into a fellow cradle Catholic with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, except for friends who are priests, professional apologists and such…you know who you are.
My own biblical literacy is in no way shape or form even approaching encyclopedic; in fact, it’s probably just north of anemic.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a Bible. And I open it almost daily. I’m a voracious Bible-opener, as a matter of fact. I identify words, entire sentences and even whole chapters in a single sitting. But I rarely find myself really soaking it in, lectio divina style.
I need to work on that. I know. Fortunately, being Catholic, I hear plenty of Scripture at Mass, along with homilies to help me put them in context. That said, there are a couple of people I think get a raw deal when homily time rolls around.
First of all, Martha—of Martha, Mary and Lazarus (the family, not the folk group, if there is one). She gets absolutely no credit for everything she was getting done so her sister and everybody else in HER house could comfortably soak in the teachings of Jesus during Luke, Chapter 10.
Somebody in the room could have at least thrown her a bone. Don’t you think? I’m not saying it should have been Jesus; Mother Angelica got it right when she once pointed out that Martha was probably looking after chores and pretty much ignoring the learning opportunity. She probably had a little correction coming.
But shouldn’t following up with people been part of the Apostle job description? Luke’s gospel is silent on the subject, but I hope somebody—maybe one of the less high-profile guys—gave Martha some props, “You know, Martha, we all appreciate the great spread you put out, but sit down with Mary for a while. This stuff is worth listening to. If we need more olive oil we can get it ourselves.”
Anyway, I think it’s time we all cut poor Martha a break. Mary probably wasn’t a whole lot of help when Jesus WASN’T around. You can just see Martha spending her time putting things into Mary’s hands and giving her explicit instructions on what to do with then, only to have Mary forget the instructions shortly thereafter because she got distracted scrapbooking about Jesus and the Apostles
The other person I wish got a better deal in homilies is the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We hear a lot about him being a hothead but not a heck of a lot about his father’s parenting skills. The older son was definitely NOT of the impression that everything his father had was his.
You gotta hope Dad wised up and fattened up a calf for his eldest after all the hoopla about little brother blew over. And that’s not just my opinion. I heard something similar on Catholic radio recently from someone a lot smarter than I am about such things.
Yeah, I feel a little strongly about this. Why? Because I have personally displayed both Mary and prodigal tendencies over time and such behavior, while forgivable as anything is, can be very annoying.
I am married to a Martha (actually, her name is Mary Ann), a focused, get-things-done woman who could use a lot more help than I provide in terms of domestic life. And I grew up the younger brother of a guy who was a much better son to our mother than I ever was, providing her with useful assistance instead of simple comic relief that masked largely selfish life decisions.
Am I reading my own baggage into those gospel passages? Of course, I am. But if lectio divina is about truly entering into biblical stories, I’d really like a chance to sit down for a chat with Martha and the prodigal’s older brother. Maybe even at the same time. Who knows? The two of them might even hit it off!
Yes, yes, I know. Martha was a real person and the brother was made up by Jesus. I’m just having some fun. Although, I have to think Martha probably developed a soft spot for that older brother when she first heard the Prodigal Son story.
Please join me today in saluting the people in life who take care of business and get things done so the rest of us can enjoy the ride. They have a lot to teach us.
Even if stopping to learn cuts into our scrapbooking time.