Homily for July 21, 2019
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Desires of Christ
Recently Reader’s Digest ran a story about an American who traveled to Taiwan for work. On the way to his hotel from the airport, he had to catch a bus which was packed with people. Seeing a woman standing, he got up to give her his seat. She responded by angrily yelling at him in Mandarin and hitting him with her purse. The American was quite shocked and when he arrived at his hotel, asked his hosts why she had that reaction. As it turns out, in Taiwan, only elderly people are offered seats on public transportation – this young woman was very offended that the American insinuated that she was elderly!
Sometimes when you try to do an act of kindness, it backfires. Martha is in that same boat – she tries to make a nice meal, and Jesus seems to criticize her for it. But it’s important, when doing acts of charity, to seek out what our guests truly want. Sometimes we give people what we think they want, instead!
I’ve had to learn, as a priest, that I have to be careful with what I say I like, because I will sometimes get tons of it. A few years back, a family had me over for dinner and made red velvet cake for dessert. Red velvet cake is ok, but definitely not my favorite type of dessert. But to be polite, I ate it, and when they asked how it was, I told them I loved it, just out of politeness. Big mistake! From that time on, every few months, they would make me a red velvet cake! Gee, thanks…
So part of Martha’s mistake is that she doesn’t seek out what Jesus actually wants or needs at this point. But imagine Jesus’ perspective – He has been on the road for months, people constantly wanting His attention, bringing their needs to Him. He’s probably tired of the hustle and bustle and constant crowds, and just wants to relax with friends. And then Martha, in her desire to be kind, puts more hustle and bustle into the house! His heart craves intimacy with friends, where He can just share what is on His heart…and this is what Mary is giving Him.
Even now, Jesus has desires and wants. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? God doesn’t need anything! True, but He has willed to have desires! Listen to the words of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was the one who received visions of Jesus’ Sacred Heart: “Jesus showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of saving them from the path of ruin that made Him want to show His Heart to all, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains.” Jesus showed His Sacred Heart to reveal to us His desire – to be loved!
Think of this – God can do anything in the world, right? He can created stars and moons and He knows the depths of the ocean and can move mountains. But there is one thing that God cannot do – He cannot force us to love Him. And this is why it must’ve been so refreshing to enjoy fellowship with Mary in the Gospels – it was a gift that Mary freely gave Him, one that He desires but cannot force. He just enjoys spending time with us!
Spending time with Christ doesn’t have to be complicated. St. John Vianney, parish priest in France, would often see a poor farmer come into his church, spend an hour, an then depart, every single day. Finally, Fr. Vianney wanted to know the secret to this man’s prayer life, so he stopped him and asked, “What is it that you say to God when you go into the church?” The simple farmer responded, “I say nothing. I just look at God, and He looks at me.” Just spending time with God – a beautiful thing!
And not only does Jesus desire our friendship, we desire it, too. Have you ever felt incomplete? Like something was missing? A desire for a greater fulfillment, greater intimacy? As Bono sang in the ‘80s, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” This incompleteness is our desire for fellowship with God. Jesus desired to be with Mary, but Mary also desired to be with Jesus. As St. Augustine famously said, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
Many of us deal with this incompleteness, this longing for “something more”, like Martha – we stay busy! Do you ever get those Christmas letters that people send with their Christmas cards? The ones that update you on the goings-on of everyone’s life? Almost all of them start off with, “Well, 2018 sure was a busy year!” We take pride in our busyness. And while most of what we do is good, it sometimes misses the deeper yearning of the human heart – for quiet, peaceful intimacy with God.
So, Jesus desires our friendship, and we desire His…why do we not make time for it? Is life really that frantic that we cannot take ten minutes out of the day to be with Him? We don’t need to say anything, either – sometimes it is beautiful to just be with Him, listening to Him, reading His Word in the Bible. That’s how Mary did it – she didn’t come to Jesus with a thousand requests: “Jesus, heal my friend; Jesus help me with my annoyingly busy sister; Jesus I need this and that…” She just simply came, and sat, and listened to Him – and it gave Him great joy. This week, do not be afraid to follow her example – come to visit the church for a few quiet minutes, or sit outside on your deck in the evening, and just sit in the presence of His Love.
The desire of Jesus’ Heart is simple – fellowship with us. Will you give Him what He desires?