In the account, Martha complains to Jesus that Mary has left her with all the busywork, to which he responds that Mary, who has been listening to him, has “chosen the better part.”
In her “bustling” about to make sure Jesus was fed and cared for, Martha risked forgetting “the most important thing,” the Pope said: “the presence of the guest, who in this instance was Jesus.”
It is not enough for a guest to be “simply served, fed, and taken care of in every way,” the pontiff said. “Above all, he needs to be listened to.”
Since a guest is a person, with his own thoughts and feelings, it does not do for the hostess be so busy with serving that neither of them speak, he said. Rather, the guest should feel as though he is part of the family.
Jesus' response to Martha in this scene – that Mary had “chosen the better part” -- “finds its full meaning in reference to listening” to his word, Francis explained. This applies, for instance, to prayer.
“If we go to pray, for example, before the Crucifix, and we speak, speak, speak, and then leave, we don't listen to Jesus!” the pontiff said. “We do not allow him to speak to our hearts.”
“Listen: this is the key word. Do not forget!”
Francis went on to reflect on hospitality as a “work of mercy,” a “human and Christian virtue” which runs the risk of being neglected in today's world.
Whether it is among institutions which care for the sick and marginalized, or among families, it can happen that it is easier to provide services than it is to “listen and welcome,” he said.
“We are always busy and have no time to listen,” Francis said.
The Pope challenged those in the crowd to reflect on whether they take time to listen to their spouses, their children, their grandparents, the elderly, etc.
“I ask you to learn to listen, and to dedicate more time,” the pontiff said. “In the ability to listen, there are the roots of peace.”