Lk 10.38-42                    Gen 18.1-10                        Col 11.24-28

Today’s Gospel, in following on from the Good Samaritan parable, is a real life account of Jesus encountering friends Martha and Mary at home, but without brother Lazarus, who gets more of a mention in John’s Gospel. Table fellowship in the home is at the heart of it, but there are tensions between the sisters, with Martha quite justified in raising the issue of who is doing all the practical work of service, while Mary is more intent on listening to what Jesus has to say.  In the end, it’s clear enough that it’s all about finding balance in our lives too.

The erudite Jerome Biblical Commentary analyses this passage in a very down to earth way, with the heading: “Discipleship for men and women”. Firstly it points out that here again, Jesus is acting in a very counter-cultural way, in 3 ways.  In the first place, he is alone with two women who are not his own family members; secondly, he allows a woman to serve him; thirdly, as a rabbi whose job is to instruct only males, he is teaching a woman under her own roof, all taboos in the mainstream!  Then, in table fellowship, Jesus, as guest and friend,  becomes the dominant figure in this story, as he responds to his hosts’ questions about life in Christian community, but service is at the centre, with the statement: “At the time of Luke’s Gospel, diakonein refers to Christian ministry.  The lesson is not that one should prepare a casserole rather than a seven course meal. One thing undergirds all following of Jesus: listening to his word, and that is the best part. ” So there it is!!

Scripture scholar Raymond Brown follows up with much the same insight: “The import of the Lucan story is that heeding the word of Jesus is the only important thing – a lesson harmonious with the earlier answer about the love of God and neighbour as the basic observance necessary for eternal life. It demonstrates that what is required is not complicated.”  Then again, in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds, when we try to live it out!

And diakonein is where our word for deacons come from, and where you may have seen reference to following the recent Australian Plenary Council.  There was justified disruption mid-week, when some bishops refused to support a motion affirming the role of women in the governance of the Church, and requesting that their admission to diaconate be considered. Fortunately, a compromise to move forward was reached, but the bishops need to wake up to themselves, to hear what the faithful are saying, in all sincerity and good faith.

Now, closer to home,  just last Friday, we farewelled one of our pillars of the parish, being Vince Catterall, 93 years young, married 62 years ago to Maggie in this church in January 1960. Today’s Gospel is spot on in regard to the person he was, in terms of faith and the realities of life.  Another old faithful parishioner Dawn Ward, at 95, who made a comeback to Mass last Saturday night, who said we’ve lost 2 very good men, as she was including Jim Ruth, of happy memory also. (It was poor form in the extreme that the MaxiTaxi came back to take her home at 8.30pm – not what you’d call good service!!).  But the show goes on, despite the sadness of loss, for us to be people of service.

Until nearly a month ago, he and Maggie were still taking Communion and doing pastoral visitation to the residents of Arcadia Aged Care, where they were nominated as chaplains and given badges to recognize the fact, a ministry they had undertaken religiously since it opened over 20 years ago.  It was terrific to see a number of residents from Arcadia here for his farewell, acknowledging his and Maggie’s faithful service.

Apart from raising 6 children, following the sadness of their first child being stillborn, and pursuing a number of successful careers, starting with the British Navy, then Australian intelligence community, Chubb and finally Ansett, of happy memory, his broader community involvement was extraordinary, from Little Athletics to Tennis Club to the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics, along with Maggie’s constant support.  And there were the 6 in-laws and 19 grandchildren, who arrived along the way! Their loss is clearly great too, demonstrated in the tears shed yesterday and the stories told!

Then we can’t fail to acknowledge and appreciate their parish involvement, from the time they moved back here in 1967.  In retirement, he was active for 30 years in the Ascot Vale Vinnies store, and in our parish Essendon Conference, serving without judgement those in need.  He was even digging the holes for burial of ashes in the Memorial Garden, which  he and Maggie established with my predecessor Bill Attard, until not so long before Vince’s last hip replacement!  Much the same could be said of the lovely Jim Ruth, along with his wife Mary,  given their long term involvement in this community as well, in all sorts of ways. It’s certainly sad to say goodbye, but the happy memories and much gratitude remain with us always.

Vince was also an enthusiastic daily Mass-goer, along with Maggie, and it seems to me, they both found a good balance, in applying the spiritual dimension of faith to the practical side of living out that faith in action.  We just have to look at the diverse aspects of their active involvement in family, parish and community life.

We all need our role models, and Vince stands out as one who showed the way, and not in any showy way, but quietly and effectively.  I liked the quote from Calvin Coolidge’s motto, used to sum him up: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence”!!  And Vince sure was both persistent and faithful, right to the end.

Now our challenge is to keep the community alive and thriving, despite the limitations and precautions at present required with the ongoing threat of COVID and its variants. Be careful, be safe and be vaxxed, and masks in crowded areas are recommended by health experts!  We just can’t pretend it’s all back to normal, as we can see in one way, in the reduced numbers returning to weekend Mass at present.

Then we have the funeral this coming week of 100 year old Micheline, from Alexandria in Egypt, who lived across the road here from the church, where she and her husband bought the unit over 50 years ago because of its proximity and they didn’t drive!

So, here we have some great examples of faithful people who have taken the path of discipleship seriously, and who’ve taught us much as a result, as we look to the story of Martha and Mary to find the proper balance between Christian contemplation, prayer, reflection, and action, in our lives.

john hannon                                                                                17th  July  2022

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