Remarks by Pope Benedict XVI at Sunday Angelus
Castel Gandolfo, 18 July 2010
“Dear brothers and sisters!
We are now in the heart of summer, at least in the northern hemisphere. This is the time when schools are closed and most on holidays. Even the pastoral activities of the parishes are reduced, and I too have suspended my audiences for a period. So it is a favourable moment to give first place to what is actually most important in life, i.e listening to the Word of God. This Sunday’s Gospel also recalls us of this, the acclaimed episode of Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary, narrated by Saint Luke (10:38-42).
Martha and Mary are two sisters, they also have a brother, Lazarus, but does not appear in this he case. Jesus passes through their village and – the text says – it hosted Martha (cf. 10:38). This detail suggests that of the two, Marta is the oldest, the one who rules the house. In fact, after Jesus has settled, Mary sits down at his feet and listens to him, while Martha is busy with many tasks, due to the certainly exceptional Guest. We seem able to picture the scene: a sister who moves about busily, as the other is held hostage by the presence of the Master and his words. After a while Martha, apparently resentful, most can no longer resist and protests, even feeling entitled to criticize Jesus:
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me”. Martha would even teach the Master! Instead, Jesus calmly responds: “Martha, Martha – and this repeating of her name expresses affection – you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (10.41-42).
Christ’s words are clear: no contempt for the active life, let alone for the generous hospitality, but a sharp reminder to the fact that the only thing that is really needed is another: listening to the Word of the Lord; and the Lord in that moment is there, present in the person of Jesus! Everything else will pass and will be taken from us, but the Word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily activities.
Dear friends, as I said, this Gospel page is very much attuned to the vacation period, because it recalls the fact the human person must work, engage in domestic and professional activities, but needs God first of all, who is the interior light of Love and Truth. Without love, even the most important activities lose their value, and give no joy. Without a deeper meaning, everything boils down to do our sterile and unruly activism. And who gives us Love and Truth, but Jesus Christ? May we learn therefore, brethren, to help each other, to cooperate, but before everything else to choose together the best part, which is and will always be our greatest asset.
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors here in Castel Gandolfo. In today’s Gospel we are reminded of the need to rest from our daily labours, so that we may give time to the one thing that is truly necessary in our lives – listening to the word of God in attentive stillness. It is Mary, not Martha, who chose the better part. At this time when many of you are on holiday, I pray that you and your loved ones may be truly refreshed in body and spirit, so that you may return with renewed vigour to the responsibilities of your daily lives. May God bless you all!