Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10: 38-42 (NRSV)
In today's reading, Martha wanted to offer Jesus the best hospitality, and she expected a little help from Mary in the kitchen. However, Mary wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he had to say. This story reminds us that hospitality means more than offering refreshments and meals. It is about offering our presence and listening to one another with a compassionate heart.
S. Thevanesan, from New York, learned to practice this kind of hospitality when he volunteered for a month in Sri Lanka in 2004 after a tsunami. As part of the relief efforts, he offered comfort and counseling services to some of those whose loved ones had died in the tragedy. He listened as one woman told him that the tsunami waves had swallowed her husband. When he asked whether she and her two children had received any support from the local church, she said that anyone who came from the church just spouted off religious jargon. Their visits didn't mean much to her because they did not want to listen to her. Listening is a spiritual gift. All of us can practice the spiritual skill of offering hospitality by listening well.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to be good listeners to everyone we encounter today, in Jesus' name. Amen.