Try as we might for perfection in our journey of faith, we all of us stumble and fall sometimes. That’s just the way, unfortunately, it is in this fallen world. But that being the case, we have in our Liturgy of the Word this morning some saints who can accompany us on this precarious journey.
We will be immersed in Jonah’s story for the next few days. This story 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 rather unwilling disciple who was Jonah. Today’s reading has Jonah finally doing what God asked him to do. Fresh out of the belly of a 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 accomplishes 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 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 salvation 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. 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.