Homily: Mass for Secretaries, 2015

Mass for Secretaries
6th October, 2015

The book of Jonah is told in story form and is intended to amuse as well as instruct! All the characters are likeable- except Jonah who is rebellious and disobedient.

At God’s first request to Jonah, he struggled to evade his mission, but God was determined to do the work through Jonah, so He did not give up on the reluctant prophet, and He called to him a second time. Now that Jonah had learned his lesson, he obediently walked through the large city calling on the people to repent. Against all Jonah’s expectations, his mission was successful in spite of his attitude.

The Ninevites heard and obeyed. Even the king proclaimed: “All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.” The issue, then, was not one of having inadequate knowledge of what God considered sin, but until then they had lacked the desire to abstain from it.

The people of Nineveh believed God and a lesson here for us is that repentance begins with believing God. As we believe Him and His Word, we have the power to transform our lives. The issue for the Ninevites was not that of information, but motivation.

Ironically, the one rebellious person in this story is the prophet Jonah. The people of Nineveh showed that they were ready to change their ways and recognised the power of God. In our world too, non-Christians can frequently put us to shame in the way they show a Christian spirit, at times better than we do ourselves.

In Today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot, and we are told was distracted by so many responsibilities and “burdened with much serving”.  Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same.

After Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus chided her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part”, which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No, we are told that she was “listening to him speak”.

Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd that they need to be doing all the time. And we know that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our lives and ourselves.

If we do not spend time listening to Jesus, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians (even secretaries!) to be very busy; but are we busy always, about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then maybe there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This is a good part of Christian living –action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives, but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. This same pattern must be ours too.    

We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong in that instead of opening a door, they close the door of goodwill and make it more difficult for others to access the assets of     our Faith... So we ask the Lord that we will be conscious of and accept our mission of service and we pray that all those who come into contact with the Church through our services, will find the doors open; open to meet this love of Jesus in our lives.

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson