This homily is for those of us who sometimes have trouble on our spiritual journeys. All those who have achieved perfection and glory are excused. … It’s interesting that none of us left, isn’t it? If you’ve been attending our Amazing Gifts program here on the weekends, you heard this week that the spiritual life is a process and sometimes we fall, and sometimes we fly. Today’s Liturgy of the Word gives us the stories of some great saints who have those same trials.
The story of Jonah that began yesterday and will continue for a few days is not at all about the great things Jonah did. It is more about the journey of discipleship that was Jonah’s life, and about the wonderful things that God did in and through the very unwilling disciple who was Jonah. Today’s reading has Jonah finally doing what God asked him to do yesterday. Fresh out of the belly of that big fish, Jonah finally realizes that God’s call in his life is not optional. So he does what he is told to do, and affects the conversion of the evil city Nineveh. But Jonah’s story is not done yet, and we’ll see this week the ups and downs he still has to endure.
And then we have the story of poor Martha in today’s Gospel. I often think that Martha, as Luanne Roth said at last week’s Amazing Gifts, gets a raw deal in this story. Someone had to make the food! But I think the real message of this Gospel story is that neither Martha nor Mary had it all wrapped up. Because there are times when we definitely have to be Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet in adoration, prayer and praise. But if we are never Martha, our faith is useless, as St. James says in his letter. There has to be a balance between our spiritual life and our service, or, in the words of St. Benedict, between our prayer and our work.
So for those of us who haven’t yet achieved spiritual perfection, the message is that we have lots of saints in Scripture who are on the journey with us. The point is to keep moving on the journey, so that we will one day reach perfection in that kingdom that knows no end. And may God be glorified in the belly of the big fish or in Nineveh; in our Martha days and our Mary days, in our prayer and our work.