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Prayer and action, Martha and Mary, should be in unity, Pope tells audience

July 22, 2013

At his midday audience on Sunday, July 21, Pope Francis commented on the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, saying that active work and contemplative prayer should be “in profound unity and harmony.”

It would be misinterpreting the Gospel account, the Pope said, to think that listening to the Word of God—as Mary listened to Jesus—is in conflict with “concrete service to our neighbors.” They are both essential features of Christian life, the Pontiff told his audience. “So why does Jesus rebuke Martha?” the Pope asked rhetorically. He answered: “Because she considered only what she was doing to be essential.” The Pope went on to say that charitable works should never be “detached from the principle source of our action—that is, listening to the Word of God.”

Prayer should lead to “concrete action” to help those in need, the Pope explained; otherwise it is “a sterile and incomplete prayer.” On the other hand, when Christians become preoccupied with works—when “we give greater weight to things, functions and structures, forgetting the centrality of Christ”—that approach leads to “serving ourselves and not God.”


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