LECTIO DIVINA: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C


Lk 10:38-42

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

          Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128, 40) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

          “As they continued their journey he 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.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.

          St. Augustine sees in these two sisters two types of life: the contemplative and the active. Our Lord Jesus Christ will place the kingdom into the hands of God the Father when he leads the believers to the contemplation of God, the end of all good action, eternal rest, perpetual happiness, including Himself and the Holy Spirit. This is what he meant when he said: “But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn. 16:22). Mary, seated at the feet of the Lord and attentive to his word, is a beautiful image of this joy. Free of all preoccupation, absorbed in contemplative ecstasy of the Truth, in the measure possible in this life, she is the image of our future state in eternity. Martha, her sister, is busy with useful services, good, yes, and necessary, but transitory, to which will follow a sweet rest, while Mary reposes in the Word of the Lord. And when Martha laments because her sister does not help her, the Lord answers: Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken from her. He does not say that Martha’s part is bad, but Mary’s is best, a part that shall not be taken away. That of Martha is a service of indigence; it ends with the need. The reward of good transitory work is stable rest. In that contemplation, God will be all in all, because other than he nothing can be yearned for, seeing him is sufficient to fill us with the delights of his joy. That person is capable of this in whom the Spirit prays with inexpressible sighs. He says: One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek, to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty (Ps. 27:4) –(trin. 1,20).

          St. Augustine also comments on the unity between the two sisters. Let us pass on to the theme I proposed: the unity. Martha, arranging and preparing what is needed to feed the Lord, was busy in multiple tasks; Mary, her sister, preferred that the Lord feed her. Abandoning in a certain way her sister to take care of the domestic chores, she sat down at the feet of the Lord and, doing nothing else, she listened to his word.Full of faith, she had heard: Rest and see that I am the Lord (Ps. 45:11). Martha was busy, this was partaking of the banquet; Martha was busy with many things, Mary paid attention to only one thing. Both roles were good; but which was better? What can I say? We have someone to ask; let us attentively listen to him. We already heard, when it was read, which is better. Let us listen to him again, let me recall it. Martha approaches the guest, and making him the judge, presents to him the implicit demand in her affectionate complaint: that her sister had abandoned her and did not care to help her, burdened as she was in serving him. Mary, though present, did not answer; it is the Lord who pronounces the judgment. Mary, in holy leisure, preferred to put her case in the hands of the judge, she did not even bother to answer since to prepare an answer she would have to diminish the attention for her listening. Thus the Lord answers for whom no effort was needed to speak since he was the Word. And what did he say? Martha, Martha. This repetition of name indicated love, or a manner to call her attention. To arouse her to listen more attentively, he called her two times: Martha, Martha listen to me; you are busy with many things, but only one thing is needed, i.e., only one thing is necessary. He did not refer to only one work, but to one thing convenient, that is necessary. This only one work necessary had been chosen by Mary (s. 103,3).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “Mary, who was seated at the feet of the Lord, was listening to his words” (Lk. 10:30).

  • At what moment, like Mary, do you sit at the feet of the Lord?
  • What importance and how much time do you give to prayer in your life?

b. “Martha, Martha, you are busy and preoccupied about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part, and no one will take it from her” (Lk. 10:41-42).

  • Up to what point are you busy and preoccupied about many things?
  • What is that one thing necessary?

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate Christ teaching Mary and identify yourself with her. Contemplate and listen to what Jesus tells you while you are seated at his feet. Be conscious of your feelings and keep those words in your heart.

b. Contemplate Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary, and contemplate Mary seated at the feet of Christ. While you contemplate how Christ speaks and how Mary listens, repeat in your heart: “You, Jesus, are my only need”.

F. Communication.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards listening to Jesus as Mary did, and to remember that only one thing is necessary. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

G. Final Reflection.

          “Martha thought on how to feed the Lord, Mary on how to be nourished

          by him. Martha was preparing a banquet for the Lord; Mary was already

          enjoying the banquet of the Lord himself” (s. 104, 1).

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions, that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.