ON THE GOSPEL READ ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, LUKE X., &c.
Consider first, how our Lord, going into a certain town, a certain woman named Martha received him into her house; and she had a sister called Mary, who sat also at the Lord’s feet, and heard his word, & c. O how happy, my soul, were these holy sisters, who had it thus in their power to receive the Lord of glory into their house; to entertain him there, to hear his word, and to converse familiarly with him, and to minister to him! O how happy should we have been if we had lived at that time, and could have been favoured in the like manner! But stay, my soul, and see if this same Lord does not offer thee the like favours at present; and if it be not entirely thy own fault if thou art not a great saint in consequence of them. For does he not still abide amongst us in the blessed Sacrament? Does he not there come in person into our house? Does he not bring all his treasures of divine grace with him, to enrich our souls? May we not by a spiritual communion invite him to us whenever we please? May we not by a spirit of recollection and mental prayer entertain him, and converse with him as long as we please? Does he not often visit us with his grace? Does he not often stand at the door of the heart and knock? Have we not his heavenly word with us? May we not minister to him when we please, and serve him in the person of the poor, which service he declares he looks upon as done to himself? If so, what reason have we to regret our not having lived at the time of our Saviour, seeing he is always living with us?
Consider 2ndly, how very differently these two holy sisters were then employed; the one being busy about much serving, and full of care in providing for the entertainment of our Lord; the other sitting still at his feet, and quietly attending to his divine word. And yet they were both employed about him; they both dedicated themselves to his love and service. In this they represent to us two different kinds of lives of the servants of God, the active and contemplative; or, if you please, two different kinds of functions of the Christian life: the one consisting in action, the other in contemplation; the one in the variety of good works done with a good intention, for the service of Christ; the other in a more quiet retirement and recollection, and a more close attention to God by mental prayer. Both of these are good, both of them highly commendable; because both of them tend to the love and service of God: but the latter is preferred by the judgment of truth itself; because it makes that its occupation here, which is to be its eternal employment hereafter. Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her. Learn thou, my soul, of Martha, ever to direct thy common actions with all the functions and labours of thy calling, by a pure intention to the service of Christ; learn to sanctify them all by calling in Mary, that is recollection and prayer, to thy assistance. But learn also of Mary to retire as often as thou canst from the noise and hurry of the world, to the feet of Christ; learn of her, as often as thou hasts thy choice, to choose that better part of contemplation and love, which is to be thy eternal occupation.
Consider 3rdly, that this gospel is applied by the church to the blessed Virgin and to her assumption, because she was the happy woman that received in an extraordinary manner Christ into her house; she perfectly fulfilled in her life both the functions of Martha and Mary; of Martha in the services she rendered to our Lord in his humanity, for all the thirty years he was under her roof; and of Mary, by the perpetual contemplation and love of his divinity; so that even in the midst of the duties of the active life, the eye of her heart was always upon her God; she ever attended to the one thing necessary; she ever made choice of the better part; and on this day of her exaltation she was put in the full possession of it for eternity – according to that, Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be taken from her.
Conclude, O my soul, to follow her great example in choosing always the better part, that thou mayest partake in her everlasting happiness.