In his daily morning Mass homily, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of prayer in light of the Gospel of Martha and Mary. The heart that knows how to pray, knows how to forgive he told those gathered in the chapel of his residence at Casa Santa Marta.
The biblical figures of Martha and the prophet Jonah in today’s readings, he said, share an identical flaw: both did not know how to pray. The Gospel recalled when Mary asks Jesus in a reproachful tone to tell her sister to help her, to which Christ replies that “Mary has chosen the better part.”
“This part,” the Pope explains, “is that of prayer, that of the contemplation of Jesus. In the eyes of her sister it was a waste of time, it also seemed, perhaps, a bit of a fantasy: to look at the Lord as if she were a child full of amazement.”
“The Lord: this is the better part, because Mary listened to the Lord and prayed with her heart. And the Lord tell us: ‘The first task in life is this, prayer.’ But not the prayer of words, like parrots; but prayer [of the ] heart: to look at the Lord, to listen to the Lord, to ask the Lord. We know that prayer can make miracles.”
The power of prayer is noted in the first reading which spoke on the conversion of Nineveh upon hearing the announcement of their imminent destruction by the prophet Jonah. The Holy Father noted that Jonah, like Martha, is more willing to deal justice without mercy.
“There are others who are as stubborn as Jonah, that are the justiciars. He went, prophesied, but in his heart he said: ‘They deserve it. They deserve it. They asked for it! He prophesied, but didn’t pray!” the Holy Father exclaimed.
“He didn’t not ask forgiveness from the Lord for them. He would only beat them. They are the justiciars, those who believe they are just! And in the end, the book of Jonah continues, we see that he is a selfish man, because when the Lord saves, through the prayers of the people, Nineveh, he gets angry with the Lord: ‘You are always like this. You always forgive.’”
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father warned that to pray without heart, pessimism, as well as to seek justice without forgiveness are the temptations that keep Christians from choosing “the better part.” When one does not pray, they close the door thus keeping the Lord from acting in their life.
“Prayer in front of a problem, in a difficult situation, […] is opening the door to the Lord so he can enter. Because He re-does things, He knows how to arrange things, to rearrange things,” he said.