By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Gospel story of the sisters Mary and Martha, one sitting at Jesus’ feet and the other making sure their guest was served, is a lesson to Christians that every good deed done for others should flow from listening to God’s word, Pope Francis said.

“The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass. Jesus’ word is the better part, which Mary had chosen,” the pope said July 17 before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

The story of Martha and Mary was the day’s Gospel reading, and Pope Francis said it could be a particularly helpful reminder to Christians taking a July or August break from work or school.

In the Gospel, Jesus says Mary chooses the “better part” by stopping to listen.

“This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus,” the pope said. “It must be enlivened by his Spirit, otherwise it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism.”

“Brothers and sisters,” he told the estimated 12,000 people in the square, “let us take advantage of this summer vacation time to stop and listen to Jesus.”

In the midst of busy lives, he said, a summer break is a good time “for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel,” and then asking if one’s life “is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much.”

Too many times, the pope said, people start their day like “hens,” just darting around.

However, he said, if one starts the day by “looking to the Lord, taking his Word, briefly,” it can be an inspiration for the whole day. “If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind, the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis also prayed again for the people of Sri Lanka, which is experiencing civil, political and economic unrest and for the people of Ukraine, “struck every day by a hail of missiles.”

“How can one fail to understand that war only creates destruction and death, driving peoples apart, killing truth and dialogue?” Pope Francis said. “I pray and hope that all the international actors will truly work to resume negotiations, not to fuel the senselessness of war.”