My husband and I love to entertain. And when we do so, we go all out. My husband cuts the grass and works the grill, and I cook side dishes and clean the house. When people show up, we want to make sure they get a drink, that they have enough snacks to munch on, and that they are comfortable. My intentions, if I really think about it, are twofold. 1) I want to make sure my guests are happy and having fun, and 2) I want them to see what a great party I can throw. And truthfully, sometimes I am so caught up in making sure everything is perfect, that I hardly get a chance to really engage with my guests and hear their stories. I am too distracted thinking about how much longer the chicken needs to cook, and if we are running low on booze. And this is just for my friends and family! I can’t imagine how I would be if I knew the King of Kings was coming over!
I hazard a guess that Martha was behaving similarly when Jesus showed up at her door. And as we know, Jesus chastises her.
Does this mean it is wrong to serve our guests? Of course not.
But what it DOES mean is that we have to keep our priorities straight. If making sure the dinner and sitting room are perfect is keeping me from spending quality time, then it isn’t worth it. If we are anxious about superficial things to the point that we can’t hear Jesus’ message, then we have not prioritized correctly. Jesus values our engagement and we need his teaching more than anything else.
An example of putting our priorities in proper order is shown in the first reading. The Ninevites had obviously strayed off course, which is why Jonah had to come and set them straight. Amazingly, everyone “from the greatest of them to the least of them” jumps to action. Even the king responds by focusing on humility and repentance. He sees that nothing else matters more than making amends with God - not his title or fancy robes, not even food or drink.
So, concretely, what does this mean for our lives? It means we have to put first what is most important. Keeping a clean house, working hard at our jobs, maintaining physical health, even running parish ministries...these are all GOOD things. But none of these activities should take priority over our relationship with God. This isn't because God is incomplete without our attention. Rather it is we who miss out if are not engaging with God. If our schedules are jam-packed and we don’t feel like we have time for prayer, adoration, or mass, then we need to MAKE time. Instead of trying to fit God in when we have finished our other activities, we have to turn it around. Because putting in time with God will be more fruitful in our lives than anything else we invest our energy in.
Dear Jesus, help me not to become anxious about superficial things and to always remember what is most important in my life. Allow me to see how much I need you and to be thankful that you choose to be an integral part of my life.