The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
July 17th, 2022 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 10:38-42
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
One of my students when I directed a graduate program in lay ministry in Colorado was a woman who was part of the first class of undergraduate women students at the University of Notre Dame. Previously, the school only admitted males to undergraduate studies. She told me that there was only a small group of women. And while they experienced general acceptance, she told me it was still quite challenging as they entered an all-male academic setting.
I thought of her when I read today’s gospel that features close friends of Jesus, namely Mary and Martha. Most are familiar with this account, especially since it is readily understood, especially by most women. One sister, Martha, works hard to fulfil traditional duties of women -- both then and now. And while Martha responsibly toils in serving the needs of others, including Jesus, Mary relaxes next to Jesus, listening as he shares his wisdom. As the gospel describes the scene, Mary sits in the typical position of a student at that time, at the feet of the teacher.
Martha enters the scene with a complaint. She is doing what is expected of women in that day. In her mind, Mary is not. In fact, she is breaking new ground, like what those women did at Notre Dame. (And have been doing ever since.)
And to add emphasis, Jesus said that “Mary has chosen the better part.” By her example, she is showing the basic equality of women and men. The pursuit of learning about God and all creation is not to be limited only to men. In a sense, Mary is shown preference by her example (applauded by Jesus) for valuing what Jesus was teaching.
We live in a time when there have been many social breakthroughs of old restrictions, especially related to gender. This has been especially poignant, and even highly contentious at times in the realm of religion. When I directed a diaconal formation program for my current Catholic diocese of Helena, Montana, I requested of the bishop that he allow the wives of diaconate candidates to fully participate in the program. He agreed.
Deep down I felt that the church, and all religious bodies around the world, should be in the forefront of supporting the full and equal rights of all. This is happening slowly. I believe that Jesus would encourage picking up the pace. It was a practice he began two-thousand years ago with a wonderful, bright woman named Mary.
©David M. Thomas, PhD