A Matter of Urgency or Importance – July 21, 2019

Please find below my homily for Masses from this weekend. I pray that it speaks to you in some way.

Peace and Blessings.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 21, 2019 – Cycle C

GN 18:1-10A, PS 15:2-3, 3-4, 5, COL 1:24-28, LK 10:38-42

As we listen to our first reading today and then the Gospel passage from Luke, they appear to be opposed to one another. In the first reading, Abraham and Sarah are being lauded for taking the time to welcome others. To take time to put out a meal for the three men; to drop whatever they are doing to make sure their guests are comfortable.

In the Gospel reading, we hear just the opposite. Martha is doing everything to accommodate the Lord, bending over backward, if you will, and yet, she is not the one who is given praise for her efforts. It is Mary. The person who sits at Jesus’ feet and listens intently to him yet does nothing to welcome Him or make Him feel at home. How many of us here today can relate with Martha? How many with Mary? How many of us put on a different air about us, or take a different approach to things based on what we are doing or for whom we are doing it for? I would imagine that each one of us, at some point in our lives, have done the latter.

Is there anything wrong with that? Intrinsically, probably not, but the Lord wants so much more for us. Yes, He wants us to be good and faithful servants. But at what cost? What are we forsaking of ourselves, of our own lives, so much so that we miss those opportunities to sit at the feet of Jesus? Are we placing those things that are urgent over those that are important?

We have all said at one time or another, “there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. If we just had more time.” We’ve all hoped it would be so. Here’s what I’ve discovered, though. We all have time for what we choose to have time for. Let me say that again. We all have time for what we choose to have time for. Our struggle comes in distinguishing between that which is important and that which is urgent. If we don’t know the difference between the important and the urgent, we’ll never be able to choose that which is important. We will, by default, choose the urgent every time.

I know some of you are thinking, urgent things are important things. Sometimes, that’s correct. Situations and circumstances, we face in our lives can be both urgent and important. The reality is that those urgent and important events are few and far between. Rather, our neglect of the important forces us into the urgent.

In our Gospel reading today, we encountered two sisters involved in this type of conflict, but each made a different choice. I think we can learn something from their responses to help us in distinguishing between the important and the urgent.

It is not unlikely at all that Jesus was at their home more than once. He could have been a regular house guest. That fact notwithstanding, word comes that Jesus and his disciples are on their way. Martha gets frantic. The house is a mess. There’s nothing to eat. What are we going to feed them? We can all relate to Martha’s concern. It’s a legitimate one. She wanted to be a gracious host. After all, hospitality in the ancient world was a big deal. One of the worst things you could be in Jewish culture was inhospitable.

Martha was so caught up in the urgent, that she neglected the important. She was so distracted by the task that she failed to note the importance of just enjoying the time with her guest. Her service took precedence over spending time with Jesus. Here’s a lesson for all of us today: the urgent will always distract us from the important.

Martha’s distraction not only caused her to miss the deeper relationship with Jesus, but it also disrupted the relationship she had with her sister. She complained, “Lord, tell Mary to help me here! I’m slaving away and she’s just sitting there. This is outrageous! Help me out here!” Jesus simply gave Martha a gentle rebuke about being consumed with the urgent and missing the important.

So how can you and I focus on the important and not the urgent? Are there some guidelines we can use to help us make the distinction? I share with you today 3 ways that you can hopefully use as a foundation.

One, create artificial deadlines. Without a deadline, other things tend to appear and take up our time and if too many things start to take over, we become stressed and distracted, thereby forcing us to then focus on the urgent and not the important.

Two, be selective with our “yes.” The largest barrier to a fruitful life is not commitment, but over-commitment. We need to learn how to say “no” to good opportunities so we can say “yes” to the best opportunities, and those things that are important for us in our lives. Yes, we may disappoint a few people along the way, but when you say “no”, you can always preface it with, “No, for now, is not no forever.” If we’re going to choose the important over the urgent, we must learn to be selective with our “yes.”

The third way we can keep the urgent from crowding out the important is to do first what matters most—do first what matters most. That’s truly the purest interpretation of our Gospel lesson today. Mary chose to do first what mattered most—to be with Jesus. We get distracted by all the items on our “to-do” list that we let our time with Jesus just sort of go by the wayside. “Oh, I’ll get around to that,” is a common phrase we all say. It’s never urgent or important until the crisis comes, and then we want to run to Jesus. Yes, Jesus will be there, but guess what? Jesus is here right now, and He desires more than anything to spend time with us, to love us, to care for us, to strengthen us, but we find ourselves just too busy for Jesus, right now.

Scripture and tradition indeed call us to practice hospitality to all. There is no disputing that fact. But when we have the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus, when we are blessed with true and holy communion, let us not lose ourselves in the urgent rather, let us focus on what is truly important. Let us not miss out on the presence of Jesus Christ. For he is truly here with us. Right here. Right now. And just like Mary, we must choose the better part, the important part, that which matters most, so that we too can hold on to it forever.


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