The first reading is about the reluctant prophet Jonah. He is told by God to go to Nineveh and preach to the pagan city. His message from God is that the city will be destroyed in 40 days since it is a place of corruption and injustice. Jonah being an elitist and Jewish nationalist, truly desires that God carries out his threat. He sees that outside Judaism there is no salvation. However in his heart of hearts he knows God is loving and merciful and still might relent of this punishment. The King of Nineveh on hearing of Jonah’s message takes seriously the need for repentance and orders that all the inhabitants and even all the beasts of Nineveh, must refrain from food and drink and put on sackcloth and ashes. The key part of this passage from the Book of Jonah is that the King takes seriously God message spoken through Jonah and spoiler alert, God’s shows the gentile people of Nineveh mercy and kindness for they listened to the message of his anointed.
Today’s Gospel story is also about listening. As Jesus told Mary, she has chosen the better part. She takes the time and opportunity to really be present to Jesus as he has come to the house of Martha and Mary. We can often be like Martha, multi-tasking, worried about so many things that we lose perspective on what is important and what really matters in our life. We need to take time to reflect on the meaning of our life. Like the King of Nineveh and his people were too busy to listen to God and lived their lives away from God. God sent Noah to nudge them in the right direction, to get them back on track. So, at times, we need to listen to Jesus’ advice to Martha and apply it to our own lives. We need to put our name in where Jesus uses her name. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about so many things, Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” No one can take away from us anything when we are truly present to the authentic part of our personhood. By truly being present to ourselves we can truly become present to those we meet in our everyday lives.
—Gerard Wilson is a Religious Studies faculty member, husband of Mary Ann, and father of three great kids, Chris '15, Becca, and Alex.