Here in England we honour the memory of Saint Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York, a Roman monk and priest who was part of the second band of missionaries sent to England by Pope Saint Gregory I to support and assist Saint Augustine of Canterbury. Following the Battle of Hatfield, Paulinus was exiled from York and spent his final years as Bishop of Rochester in Kent where he died on 10th October 644. We honour Saint Paulinus today for his contribution in establishing the church in England.
Today’s first reading continues the interesting story of Jonah. It begins by mentioning that the word of the Lord came a second time to Jonah. The first time it came, Jonah booked passage on what he hoped would be an escape cruise. He ended up telling the ship’s crew to toss him overboard. Along comes a hungry whale that swallows him and takes him on a different sort of cruise. Before long, a restless Jonah has given the whale indigestion. It coughs him out a few yards from the Assyrian coast. Once again, God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the people there. Not surprisingly, this time Jonah decides to do what God asks of him.
The Gospel introduces us to Martha, an unhappy hostess. She is upset because her sister, Mary, is not helping her with preparing the food, setting the table and other domestic tasks. Martha probably thought her complaint would elicit a compliment from Our Lord and a rebuke directed at Mary. Instead, Our Lord responds: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; only one thing is required. Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.”
Sometimes the ‘many things’ we make ourselves busy about consist of things of relatively minor importance, a sort of busy work that we use to justify not doing something more important. We convince ourselves we just don’t have time. God uses some pretty strong lesson plans to teach Jonah. Our Lord uses a gentler approach to teach Martha. We probably fall somewhere in between Jonah and Martha on the learning curve. But, hopefully we do finally come to realise that we need to listen to God and act on his word.