Converting to Choosing the Unum Necessarium, 27th Tuesday (I), October 10, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
October 10, 2017
Jon 3:1-10, Ps 130, Lk 10:38-42


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • In today’s first reading, we have the famous scene of the preaching of Jonah in Nineveh, a harrowing thought that, as we saw yesterday, got him to try to flee to the most western part of the known planet. But when he began to preach, there was extraordinary response. People converted on day one of hearing him say, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” It spread immediately through a city it would take three days to traverse, and every creature, from the King to the animals, repented in sackcloth and ashes. We should remember, when we’re intimidated to proclaim the Gospel to others, that while some may refuse and reject it, others may respond in ways far greater than we could have imagined. As we contemplate this scene, we should also remember how Jesus used it in the Gospel with regard to the cities of Chorazin, Capernaum and Bethsaida, reminding them that “There is a greater than Jonah here,” and summoning them to a conversion even more profound.
  • That leads us to today’s Gospel, as the Lord gently brings Martha to conversion. On July 29 each year, we celebrate Saint Martha’s feast day, but she still needed conversion. While she was seeking to love the Lord, working hard to prepare a meal for him, she was “anxious and worried about many things.” Jesus reminded her: “Only one thing is necessary” and then told her to choose that “better part” as her sister Mary had done. Often we are worried and anxious about many good things, but we have to choose the one thing necessary and better, namely, to do everything for, with, through, and in Jesus, beginning by letting him do what he wants to do in us. What Mary grasped that Martha didn’t is that Jesus had come to their home primarily to feed and not to be fed, to serve rather than to be served, and it was Mary who grasped that and sat at his feet as he not only fed her with the nourishment of his word and presence. Similarly as we look at our day and all the good things we need to do, Jesus, the greater than Jonah, is calling us to remember the “one thing” and choose it. He’s calling us to unity of life. He’s summoning us to keep our attention on him, not just rather than on all of the other good things we need to do, but in all the other things we have to do, if we really have to do them. For all of us in our Christian lives, we are interiorly drawn and quartered by so many different aims, projects, tasks, hopes, etc. Jesus is calling us to convert to simplicity, to know that he cares for us, to know that his Father provides, to know that whatever we do, in word or in deed, we’re called to do in his name.
  • How do we grow in this simplicity to which Jesus calls us, the unity of focus on Jesus that we see in Mary of Bethany? I think a great means is by Marian devotion. In this month of the Holy Rosary as we prepare for the centenary of the last of the apparitions in Fatima on October 13, it’s good for us to ponder how the Rosary is not meant to be just one more good thing we do or spiritual box we check off, but something that helps us to enter into Mary’s own contemplative gaze and heart. When we pray the Rosary, we sit with Mary of Nazareth at the feet of Jesus, her Son, as we let him nourish, cleanse, illumine and strengthen us. We contemplate Jesus in all the mysteries of his life, from his conception in Mary’s womb, to his making John the Baptist leap in Elizabeth’s, to his birth and being adored, to his being lifted up in Simeon’s arms and described as a sign of contradiction, to his dazzling the scholars of the law in the temple, to his being baptized and mentioned as the beloved Son of the Father, to his elevating marriage to a sacrament in Cana, to his calling us to conversion in order to enter his kingdom, to his being transfigured as the Father called us to listen to him, to his instituting the great Sacrament of the Eucharist, to his sweating blood in agony, to his being scourged and crowned with thorns, to his carrying the Cross and dying on it, to his being raised from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending forth the Holy Spirit, raising his mother up to heaven and crowning her queen of saints. We ponder Jesus in all of these central episodes in his life an are helped to contemplate him in so many other scenes as well. We look to him as the one thing necessary, as the better part, and with his Mother Mary we make time for him, just like Mary of Bethany did. When we really ponder the mysteries of the Rosary instead of merely recite them, we’re changed. In seeing Jesus more intensely we begin to see ourselves more profoundly. The Second Vatican Council taught us 50 years ago that it’s only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that we can understand ourselves and our supreme vocation. It’s only by entering into the mystery of his self-giving love that we find ourselves. The Rosary is a school that not only helps us to understand Jesus but understand ourselves, particularly as we go through the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious episodes of human life. When we pray the Rosary and contemplate all of the mysteries of Jesus’ life and saving work from the perspective of our Lady, we begin to understand the conversion asked of us so that we, too, may live these mysteries and come to enflesh them in life and share in Jesus’ eternal glory.
  • That leads us to the second thing we learn from examining the Rosary from the perspective of Bethany. We learn how to serve God and others like Martha but without losing Mary’s contemplative spirit. We’re able to work not only for Jesus but with Jesus. St. John Paul II pondered this truth in his great apostolic exhortation Rosarium Virginis Mariae, released 15 years ago. The more we contemplate Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary the more we’re able to see Christ in others and serve them as contemplatives in the midst of the world. “When prayed well in a truly meditative way,” St. John Paul wrote, “the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his ‘Beatitudes’ in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a ‘Simon of Cyrene’ for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?” The Rosary helps us to see and serve Jesus in others and to help us not only to live in his kingdom but help his kingdom come. In receiving him in our interior Bethany, we learn how to try to make the whole world a Bethany.
  • Today we come here to sit at the feet of Jesus in the Mass, to listen to him and be fed by him, as our one thing necessary and the part better than all other parts of life combined. We’re strengthened by him here to go out and serve him and others with the diligence of Martha and the contemplative heart of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Nazareth. And we’re offered a lifeline of the compendium of the Gospel to lift us every upward as we pray together with our parish family and our families at home in the school of Mary so that together with her we may contemplate the Blessed Fruit of her womb in the mysteries of the Ascension, Assumption and Coronation with a “glory” be that will never cease!


The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 JON 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small,
put on sackcloth.When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth
and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive,
and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm PS 130:1B-2, 3-4AB, 7-8

R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Let Israel wait for the LORD,
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Alleluia LK 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 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.”