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Jonah, Martha, and Mary

During his homily, Fr. Benedict, gave separate reflections on the First Reading and the Gospel. And in both reflections, I felt God speaking to me personally. 

First Reading (Jonah 3:1-10)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

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There are two striking points in the story:
1. Jonah was disappointed that God did not punish Nineveh for all their iniquities. The Ninevites were notorious criminals - torturers and thieves - at that time. And Jonah was a reluctant prophet. He refused to go to Nineveh the first time God ask him to. When he finally said yes to God's second invitation, he did not expect transformation from the Ninevites. In fact, he was waiting for God's wrath to be upon them for all their wrongdoings. But God does not play by our rules. Kumikilos ang Panginoon sang-ayon sa Kanyang kalooban. And we are blessed to have such a forgiving and merciful God. 

2. Jonah walked along the city for a day proclaiming the message from the Lord and the whole of Nineveh, prayed, fasted, repented, and was transformed. Every time we go to mission, we can only hope and pray that we will be given the opportunity to witness beautiful and inspiring transformations. But more often than not, we need to withhold our gratification because most of the times, we do not immediately see the fruits of our labors. What's more important is that we are able to plant the seeds of hope, peace, and love in the hearts of the people to whom we minister and believe that in God's time, transformation will happen. 

Gospel (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." 

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This story tells us four things:
1. For those who belong to a religious community, you are entitled to have your own friends outside that community. You are not exclusively owned by your community. Jesus went to the home of Martha and Mary all by Himself. He did not bring even the "beloved" disciple. Martha and Mary were personal friends of Jesus. 

2. God does not need defending. He understands you exactly where you are. When Martha complained to Jesus and actually questioned Him that He seemed not to care about Mary leaving all the chores to Martha, Mary did not scold her sister, nor did Jesus rebuke her for daring to speak to Him in that manner. The Lord understands us - even when we are mad at Him, even when we express our disappointment with Him, even when we are at our worst. :) So the next time someone tells you that they hate God for not answering their prayers, do not be angry with them. They are just being honest. And God knows that. Human and weak as we are, we will not always understand the will of God. We will not always appreciate His plans for us, we will come to the point of questioning Him, doubting Him, and ultimately, hating Him. But that won't be for long. Eventually, we would know, understand, and believe that all things work for our good because God wants nothing but the best for us. :) Being honest with the Lord on how we feel and what we think is also an indication of an intimate relationship with Him - a friendship that can stand the most difficult trials and gets better and stronger with every misunderstanding resolved and every problem solved together. :)

3. Be selective of the ministries you are involved in. While you have many gifts and talents, you can only do so much. Choose the best service that you can give to the Lord and focus all your strengths there. What's the point of being involved in all the ministries there is if you cannot even deliver the correct output that is expected from you? We are serving a God who deserves nothing but our best, and nothing but our all. We need to be excellent for Him. And we can only do that if we focus. Martha was anxious of so many things because she is trying to do everything - she is involved in a lot of ministries all working for the same God. We have to accept our limitations, and in doing so, we allow the Lord to work with and through us. 

4. Choose the better part. Whoever we are, whatever our vocation may be, our first mission area is our home - our family. We need to take care of our relationships first before we go out and tell others of the love that Christ has for each of us. Mary, sitting at the foot of Jesus, listening to Him, has chosen the better part. She was a disciple who knew very well that while there is a need for action, there is also a need for communication. Sometimes we get too excited and overwhelmed at the daunting tasks given to us that we no longer take time to pause, reflect, ponder, pray, ask for directions, and listen to the instructions of the Master. It has been said time and again, one of the greatest pitfalls of a servant is to focus too much on the service that he forgets the God of service. Let's give ourselves the best gift there is - time alone with God - because it is only in silence that we can hear Him clearly, and it is only in listening to Him can we know what He really wants us to do. :)

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