Are You Mary, or Martha?
This morning’s gospel from Luke at Chapter 10, verses 38-42, tells us the account of Jesus of Nazareth dining with friends. He is with Martha, Mary and, though he is not mentioned, I’m assuming he’s also with their brother Lazarus, perhaps the same Lazarus that was brought back to life right before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the last time.
Martha is bustling about the kitchen getting dinner ready and setting the table, making sure everything is just right. Her sister Mary sits in the living room with Jesus and the men and she is listening to Jesus’ teaching and commentary. Martha probably slams down the big wooden spoon with which she’s been stirring something and demands that Jesus tell Mary to get off her duff and come and help her in the kitchen, for which Jesus offers words to the effect that Martha should leave Mary alone and let her listen. His words were, according to the author of Luke, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not not be taken away from her.” (tr. NRSV)
Is this a scolding?
I don’t think so.
What Martha is doing is important and so is Mary’s work. I think that, at different times, and especially different times of the day, I’m either Martha or Mary. I’m never one completely or the other. It all depends on the situation and what I am being called to do at that time. The same may be true for you.
What is paramount, is that we do take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his wisdom and compassion and apply it to the active parts of our lives, that we do, in times of extremely difficulty and stress, stop and listen for what can help us in those active moments when we think we’re the only ones getting busy.
Will being active get us brownie points for a place at the table in the Kingdom? Well, it is a tangible showing of the new commandment that we love one another and Jesus’ declaration that whenever we help one another we help him. So yes, I think so, but those of us who suspend activity to read, mark and inwardly digest the Word have a place, too.
Being a Martha or a Mary doesn’t mean one is better than another, it just means that you serve God in different capacities and according to your gifts.
And they can be one or another, or both.
Pax et bonum,