We Are Human Beings Not Human Doings

July 21st Homily at St. Clement of Alexandria


The Gospel Reading – Luke 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.”



The church leaders that put together the Lectionary, I have to believe, did so with specific purposes in mind. They didn’t just pick scripture “out of thin air,” so to speak, but put a lot of thought and effort into seeing to it that the Christian message was proclaimed fully in many installments.

Such seems especially the case in last Sunday and this Sunday’s Gospel readings.

Last Sunday was the story of the Good Samaritan. Here we see faith in action. A man beaten by robbers and left to die on the side of the road was passed by, by a Priest and a Levite but was finally given aid by a Samaritan who treated and bandaged his wounds, transported him to an Inn and paid for his recovery.

The message here is that living the Christian life is all about DOING. Anybody who has read James Chapter 2 understands the philosophy here.

14 How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation?
15 If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on,16 and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? James 2: 14-16


There is nothing wrong with this message, until it blots out all other considerations. There are two sides to a coin and in today’s Gospel we are going to encounter the other side.


Our scene opens with Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. I don’t see any men mentioned in this story, even in any of the surrounding scripture. Jesus alone with two women talking to them about life? Scandalous and way outside the mores of the day.


But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I just wanted to let you know the significance of that fact did not escape me. It will be fodder for a future message.


Martha is upset that Mary is not helping her prepare the meal. Rather she is sitting quietly listening to Jesus and taking it all in. I have to think that at this stage that Martha knows that Jesus is somebody SPECIAL, never mind that he is a man and she is a woman, yet that does not stop her from telling Jesus what to do. Martha is DOING, DOING, DOING and commands Jesus:


“Tell her to help me.”


What Martha is saying is that here I am DOING all the DOING while Mary is DOING nothing – not DOING. You see in Martha’s world DOING is very important.


But here is where the message of the lesson comes in.


“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.”


So maybe DOING isn’t the path to a relationship with God and ultimately salvation.


“Mary has chosen the better part,” says Jesus.


So what is Mary up to that is better? The point is she isn’t DOING she is BEING. She is listening to Jesus and letting his peace infuse her very soul and perhaps even meditating.


“There is need of only one thing,” says Jesus.


So what is this one thing?


What Jesus is making a big point of here I think, is that DOING – all the good works and deeds that we perform – is a result of our relationship with God but it is not the relationship itself. That relationship is cultivated by BEING not DOING.


There is nothing wrong with DOING but Jesus is cautioning us not to get the cart before the horse. What forms our relationship with God, the basis of our religion, the one thing needed is A CHANGE OF HEART. It is letting the peace of Christ into our hearts; it is receiving the Holy Spirit deep inside the very being of our existence. Once we do that all the good acts that we perform – the DOINGS – will come naturally as a result of that.


You see if we only live out our Christianity in DOING – then it becomes all about us! Our egos become bloated and our sense of importance exaggerated.


Isn’t this the trap that the ancient Jews put themselves in? The LAW in all its myriad rules and regulations became the way of living Judaism.


          Look here how hard I am praying!

          See I have given all this money to help the poor

          Look at all I do!


“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:5-6 

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Matthew 5:28

The new Covenant from Jesus was heart transforming not behavioral modifying. Theologian Dr. Kenneth Boa put it this way:


“Being and doing are clearly interrelated, but the biblical order is critical: what we do should flow out of who we are not the other way around.  Otherwise our worth and identity are determined by achievements and accomplishments, and when we stop performing, we cease to be valuable.  When people answer the question ‘Who are you?’ by what they do, the world has a way of responding, ‘so what have you done lately?’” 


And Neale Donald Walsch added this observation:


“Remember what was said earlier.  You cannot do peaceful, you can only be peaceful.  You cannot do loving, you can only be loving.  You cannot do unified, you can only be unified.”

“Seek, then, to shift your state of being.  Do not seek first to change the world, seek first to change the self.”

So first we accept Christ and the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls. That is the ONE THING that Jesus tells us we need. Then how we live our lives will be a reflection of the spirit within us. That way we become true to our appellation. For as a species we are called HUMAN BEINGS not HUMAN DOINGS.



Posted on July 20, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. renaissanceman1968

    Thank you for sharing this perspective Br. Milliken!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: