The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (10:38-42; 11:27-28)
Today in the Holy Orthodox Church we celebrate the last of the twelve great feasts of the Church year, the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Virgin Mary. As you may remember, today’s gospel reading is the same exact gospel reading that the Church appoints for us on nearly every feast of the Mother of God. It seems that there is a powerful message that the Church is trying to drill into hearts and minds. There is something about this gospel text that tells us something special about Mary, the Mother of God. Let us contemplate this reading together for a few moments.
In the Church it seems that we have two kinds of people, those who are like Martha and those who are like Mary. Both of these groups love Christ, but they relate to Him in different ways, with different levels of priority. Those who are busy working, serving and looking after many things and those who tend to leave some of those things in the background in order to focus on what Our Lord Jesus calls the one needful thing.
On the surface we find it easy to relate to Martha. She is like us. She wants to serve others. She sees plenty of work to be done and doesn’t see enough people doing the work. She is frustrated and at her wits end. She must have been because that is the only way to explain her behavior and the way that she addressed the Lord. And her frustration would have been valid and justified except for one small problem. She was frustrated with her sister because her sister was sitting attentively, in the presence of Christ, listening to and absorbing the teaching of our Lord and forgetting everything else in the world. I wish that we would all be found guilty of the same.
Sometimes we are also like Martha. We love God but we want to make sure that everything is just so before we can rest and focus on Christ. We want to get our lives in order. So we organize and clean and plan and help and do everything that we can with the idea that we are building a foundation through our service to God. Yet the Lord often turns our understanding on it’s head. He says to Martha and in turn, to each of us “I am the proper foundation of life, focus on me first.” How many distractions and matters do we allow ourselves to put before God and His teaching and His presence in our life? In essence the Lord says to Martha, “your life will be well ordered when it starts with Me.”
I have often shared with our people that the very first thing that should happen every morning is that we fall on our knees in prayer and that we read the words of the gospel. This should happen before we check our phones or get on our computers or talk to others or eat breakfast. First be filled with Christ’s presence and His words and then you will have a foundation for serving others and dealing with the anxieties and business of life.
The Mother of God was busy in her life, after all she was a mother, not just any mother, but the mother of the long awaited Messiah, the savior of the world. And it is precisely for this reason that we see that she is focused on God. That is the message from the Church today in the reading. If you want to be blessed like the Holy Mother, if you want to live a worthwhile life, you will only be able to do that in so much as your life is a reflection of your love for God and your focus on God. And we hear exactly that sentiment from our Lord when the woman cries out to Him “blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast which nursed you.” And the Lord replies “Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
What ultimately makes the Mother of God so precious to us and to all of humanity is that she was willing not only to make God her focus and to hear the word of God, she took it one step further and kept the life giving word of God. In a very literal sense, she allowed the word of God a place to dwell within her and to be nurtured and developed and grown. We have each in a very real sense been blessed by her extreme faithfulness to nurturing the word of God. For this reason shall all generations call her blessed! What was possible for her is also a possibility for us. What prevents you from sitting at the feet of God and making Him your focus? What prevents you from hearing the word of God and keeping the word faithfully in your life? What prevents you from bearing the life giving fruit of such faithful obedience, and sharing this fruit with the world around you? To do so is to honor and to be honored by God. No one fulfills this better than the Holy Virgin. Yet this path is one that is open to each of us because of the saving and redemptive work of her only Son.
We can barely fathom the holiness and the beauty of this woman that we lovingly call the Mother of God. We can barely comprehend the way that she was loved and reverenced by the disciples and apostles of the Lord. She was held in extreme honor and her departure from this life was a moment of great sadness for the apostles. It was as if each one of them had lost their very own mother! Yet, holy tradition tells us that the disciples were given great consolation on the third day, when they found the tomb empty and she appeared to them later that evening with these words of comfort “Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives!”
My prayer is that we will also come to this realization that she is with us, even now. Reach out to her my brothers and sisters and she will strengthen us and help us and pray for us to her Son. Let us follow her example of love and faithfulness and make the Lord the very center and the heart of our lives. For this alone is wisdom and life. Glory be to God forever AMEN.